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The dangers of dehydration

Posted July 17, 2013 in Advice Column

Summer is a time for swimming, parties and barbecue. However, it’s also a perfect time for dehydration to strike.

Dehydration is the lack of fluid in the body. It is caused by too much water loss, not enough water or both. Diarrhea, vomiting, sweating, diabetes, frequent urination and burns all increase your chance of dehydration.

While being dehydrated is very dangerous, it is especially risky in the elderly. The best ways to prevent this is to drink fluids — water is the best — and to consume foods with high water content like soups and fruits. Mild dehydration has symptoms of dryness of mouth, cramps, headaches, sleepiness and dark yellow or amber urine. More severe dehydration has symptoms of severe cramping, bloating, faster breathing than normal, dry eyes and rapid and weak pulses. The elderly should still drink water and fluids even if they are not thirsty, for they may not be able to identify and be aware that they are thirsty or dehydrated as easily as younger people would.

It’s recommended for older adults to drink five eight-ounce glasses of water every day. If you see early signs of dehydration or are suspecting dehydration, drink a sports drink such as Gatorade or Powerade for quickly filling up with the necessary electrolytes and water. Keep water nearby all the time; it reminds you to keep hydrated and helps encourage water replenishment. Alcohol should be avoided, as should drinks with caffeine, for they cause the kidney to use more water.

If you want to know at any point if you are hydrated and getting enough water, you should refer to the color of the urine. You want it clear or pale yellow, which indicates healthy hydration. If you notice it dark yellow or amber, that is a warning sign to get some water in you.

If you suspect you or anybody you know is severely dehydrated you should seek medical attention and call a doctor.

Sometimes older adults decline water because they need assistance getting the fluid, so you should find a closed-top lid or a drink with a straw to give them if you believe that could be the case.

It’s summer, so drink fluids, eat your fruits and vegetables, and you should have a fun time.

Information provided by Crestview Nursing and Rehab, 2401 Des Moines St., Webster City, (515) 832-2727.

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