Summer is the time for family, fun and outdoor activities. But, with temperatures rising, there is an increased risk for becoming dehydrated.
Not consuming enough fluids can pose a serious health concern at any age, but older adults are at a higher risk.
Dehydration can occur in seniors for a variety of reasons, including inadequate water intake, excessive sweating, loss of blood, diseases such as diabetes, as well as side effects of prescribed medications like diuretics.
Aging, itself, makes people less aware of thirst and gradually lowers the body’s ability to regulate its fluid balance.
Scientists warn that the ability to be aware of and respond to thirst is slowly reduced as we age. As a result, older people do not feel thirst as readily as younger people do. This increases the chances of them consuming less water and consequently suffering from dehydration.
If dehydration is not identified and treated, the consequences to health are significant, including reduced or loss of consciousness, rapid but weak pulse, and lowered blood pressure. If rehydration is not started, the situation can become life-threatening.
Things to remember:
- Drink at least 8 ounces of water at each meal. Drink between six to eight 8-ounce glasses daily.
- If you’re thirsty (not just dry mouth), then your body is already low on water.
- Keep a bottle of water with you at all times so that it’s convenient to hydrate throughout the day.
- Keep cool, clean water in your fridge at all times.
Are you bored with standard H2O? Here are some options:
- Infuse it. Put fruit slices, such as lemon, lime and orange, in a pitcher of water and refrigerate. Other infused waters include: strawberry, blueberry and cucumber.
- Add coconut ice. Fill your ice cube tray with coconut water then pop the cubes into your glass to give water a nutty, slightly sweet taste.
You can also reach your proper water intake through foods. Some examples of fruits and vegetables with high water content are sliced, cooked zucchini; tomatoes; apples; cantaloupe; and watermelon.
You must also be on alert for heat-related illnesses. They range in severity, so pay attention to symptoms.
For heat stroke, look for: high body temperature, 103 F or higher; hot, red, dry or damp skin; fast, strong pulse; headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; losing consciousness or passing out.
In these cases, call 911 right away, as heat stroke is a medical emergency.
If possible, move the person to a cooler place, or provide some kind of shade. Help lower the person’s temperature with cool clothes or a cool bath.
Do not give the person anything to drink.
For heat exhaustion, symptoms are: heavy sweating; cold, pale and clammy skin; fast, weak pulse; nausea or vomiting; muscle cramps; tiredness or weakness; dizziness; headache; fainting or passing out.
If possible, move the person to a cooler place and loosen the clothing; put cool or wet clothes on the person; give sips of water.
If symptoms worsen, call 911.
Karen Doughtie is assistant director of Memory Matters, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head. firstname.lastname@example.org; mymemorymatters.org