Does Eating Snow Dehydrate You? Truth or Myth?


You might be thinking of snow to rehydrate because it is just made of water. Snow doesn’t work like water when it comes to hydration due to many factors. Let’s discuss them straight away!

What is Dehydration

It is the condition in which your body loses more fluids (due to diarrhea, vomiting) than you consume. Followings are the common symptoms of dehydration:

  • Dry mouth
  • Less frequent peeing
  • Dark yellow pee
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Fast breathing & heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Crankiness
  • Fainting
  • Sleepiness

So why does snow or ice dehydrate you?

Though it may sound counter-intuitive, eating snow is not the same as drinking water. When you eat snow or ice, you are consuming water in a solid form & you need to melt it down first which will require energy. When you are sick or dehydrated, your system is already overloaded. Your body will need more fluids to convert ice into water, ultimately eating snow leads to dehydration.

In addition, the structure of snow is such that, as it falls, it tends to catch air pollutants and other toxins present in the environment. By the time snow reaches the ground, it becomes totally unsafe for consumption.

In effect, eating snow may not be very good for your body and your hydration levels. In cold weather, you must look for hydration options other than snow or ice.

Eating snow can also cause hypothermia, which means that your body loses heat faster than it can produce. This significantly reduces your body temperature quickly, which can turn fatal.

Eating ice or snow can hurt your lips and tongue, causing wounds. All in all, eating snow or ice, especially in freezing weather is not such a good idea.

How to hydrate with snow or ice?

So, you are thirsty, you have run out of your supply of water, and you need to hydrate to stay alive. What are your hydration options?

The best thing is to 

  • Melt ice or snow into water and drink it. : This process helps you avoid further dehydration
  • Removes any contaminants present in water: Snow can act as a magnet for pollutants, bacteria, and toxins.
  •  Safe to consume: Melting snow to water ensures that the water is safe for you. 

You may not always have the equipment to melt the ice or snow. What can you do in that case?

  • If you have a water bottle or any container, fill it with snow and place it close to your body inside your cold-weather clothing. 
  • Your body heat will slowly melt the ice and turn it into water. Be mindful of cold weather-induced injuries and hypothermia when doing this.

If eating snow is your only option, then ensure to slowly suck on it after placing it in your mouth. This way your body gets enough time to bring the temperature of snow to match your body temperature. Never chomp on the snow quickly.

The same goes for ice. If you want to hydrate with ice, suck on it slowly and gradually.

Finally, a tip!

When you plan to eat snow or melt snow for drinking, always use white snow. Pink snow or watermelon snow, while attractive, is a home for algae and can be disastrous if consumed. Also, dirty snow is, well, dirty and unsafe.


Eating fresh, clean snow may not kill you, but it can dehydrate you. Contrary to popular myth, it doesn’t help you balance your lost body fluids. When looking for hydration options, fluids are your best bet.

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