The Heat is On! Tips on Staying Healthy and Avoiding Dehydration
By Estee Bienstock, RN, executive director, allpoint home health
Dehydration is a common condition that afflicts many people over 65, children and people whose health is compromised. The symptoms are often masked by age or illness, and can be easily missed. Even a common cold or flu can increase the risk of dehydration. As the weather begins to heat up it’s vital that everyone, including healthy individuals, be aware of the dangers and take precautions.
Up to 75% of our body weight is water. Dehydration occurs, when the body loses more water than it takes in. Loss of water can be due to illness, reduced kidney functions, heat exhaustion, inability to move around easily and /or medications. Many of the medications commonly taken by older individuals to control heart disease, hypertension, kidney disease and liver disease are common diuretics and can frequently be overlooked as causes of dehydration. Drinking enough water is vital to maintaining your health.
It’s important to note that for some elderly and those who are sick, moving around is often difficult. Many people avoid drinking the fluids they need so they can avoid having to go to the bathroom.
Common Causes of Dehydration
- Colds and flu
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Diabetes and other compromising illnesses
Warm Weather Tips to Prevent Dehydration
- Stay indoors
- Drink water throughout the day
- If no air conditioning in your home, go to a mall or environment that can stay cool throughout the day
- Start and end your day with water
- Drink to replace the water you lose, by breathing, sweating and urinating
Symptoms of Mild to Moderate Dehydration
- Dry mouth
- Decreased urine output
- Less tearing
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain and muscle cramping
Symptoms of Severe Dehydration – A MEDICAL EMERGENCY
- Extreme thirst
- Severe confusion
- Severe dry mouth and mucous membranes
- Little or no sweating
- Shriveled skin, no elasticity (when pinched, skin does not bounce back)
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- No tears at all
- Loss of consciousness
Mild to moderate dehydration can usually be treated, especially in a healthy adult by drinking more fluids. This does not include carbonated and caffeinated fluids; these tend to dehydrate rather than hydrate. Water is the number one fluid to drink to avoid or treat dehydration. It’s recommended to drink six to eight, eight ounce glasses per day to stay healthy and hydrated. If you have a medical condition that may cause you to limit your fluid intake, discuss this with your physician.
So enjoy a cool glass of water now and have a great summer!