BRIDGEPORT, Ohio — Running through sprinklers or just sitting in the shade with a glass of lemonade. Everyone has their favorite way of keeping cool during the dog days of summer. For senior citizens, keeping cool – and hydrated – is more than just a matter of comfort; it can be a matter of life and death. Dehydration, or the loss of water and salts from the body, is one of the most common forms of heat disease, but it can also occur in humid or cold weather, at high altitude or during increased physical exertion. It’s important to know how to recognize dehydration before it becomes a critical health problem.
Unfortunately, the early stages of dehydration do not exhibit symptoms, so you may not recognize that your body is in danger. According to Mary Harrison, Admissions Director at Heartland Lansing, seniors are at greater risk because thirst sensation, sweat production and the ability to concentrate urine decline with age.
“Dehydration gives general signals that do not become pronounced until the body is approaching the danger point,” she said. “Once a person exhibits symptoms such as thirst, dry mouth or decreased urine output, the person is already in the moderate stages of dehydration.”
If you are mildly dehydrated, simply drinking enough liquid and eating food high in salt will replace fluids and electrolytes.
Symptoms of early or mild dehydration include a flushed face, thirst, dry, warm skin, dizziness, weakness, headaches, irritability and dry mouth. Moderate or severe dehydration symptoms include low blood pressure, fainting, severe muscle contractions, convulsions, a bloated stomach, sunken and dry eyes, rapid breathing, a lack of elasticity in the skin and a fast, weak pulse. If someone is exhibiting these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
To avoid dehydration, the experts offer a few tips:
- Start drinking plenty of water before activity and continue drinking throughout activity. Water should be cool, but not ice cold.
- Avoid fruit juices or non-diet soft drinks. Sugar can aggravate dehydration and cause bloating and cramps.
- Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages.
- Weigh yourself before and after activity. For each pound lost in weight, you need to drink a pint of water to replace the water lost through sweating.
Not all fluid replacement must come from water. Other drinks consist mostly of water and foods contain water as well. However, thirst is generally a good guide for when you need to replace fluids, and water is generally the best choice.
Heartland Lansing, located at 68222 Commercial Drive, is part of the HCR ManorCare family. HCR ManorCare is a leading provider of short-term post-acute services and long-term care. The company’s nearly 60,000 employees provide high-quality care for patients and residents through a network of more than 500 skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities, outpatient rehabilitation clinics, and hospice and home health care agencies. The company operates primarily under the respected Heartland, ManorCare Health Services and Arden Courts names.