Seniors and Dehydration
One hot summer afternoon a few years ago, I attended a Little League baseball game where my son was playing. A few innings into the game the umpire made a questionable call and fans of both teams shouted their complaints, “What kind of call was that?” Suddenly, that umpire stumbled against the fence and passed out unconscious on the field. The crowd fell silent for a moment, then people rushed to his aid. Fortunately, the fire station was nearby, and paramedics rushed to help him.
On hot days, everyone needs to be aware of getting too hot and becoming ill. In particular, the elderly and sick can be vulnerable on stifling hot days. In the summer, most people want to be outdoors for baseball games, picnics, gardening, travel, and other outdoor activities. It’s also time to be on the lookout for dehydration symptoms and heat-caused illnesses, like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Dehydration can sneak up on you. You may think that it is just natural to feel tired, sweaty, and drained after being out in the heat. You may think that sweating after exercise is just natural. These are natural because your thirst is telling you to drink some fluid because your body needs it. Take time to drink an 8 oz. glass of water after exercising or being out in the heat. Drink fluids at each meal.
How much water should you drink? Men should drink 13 cups of water each day, and women should drink 9 cups of water each day, according to the Institute of Medicine quoted on the website of the Mayo Clinic. That water can come from a variety of foods and beverages, besides water itself. Milk and juice can take the place of water. Juicy fruits and vegetables, like tomatoes, watermelon or cantaloupe, have lots of fluid in them too.
Coffee, tea and cold drinks which contain caffeine should be limited when you are out in the heat. Alcoholic beverages should also be limited. Both caffeine and alcohol have a diuretic effect, which means that they can cause your body to lose fluids by urinating more.
Today, check yourself and your elderly loved ones for a common indicator of dehydration using a tip I found on the website WebMD. Gently pinch skin on the forearm. If the skin holds that pinched position rather than returning to its normal shape, then you need to drink some water.
In addition, some medications can cause dehydration to happen easily. Be aware of the side effects of medications your loved ones take, and take precautions. For example, the Little League umpire I mentioned had ignored a warning on his medication bottle to stay out of the sun. Fortunately, he was all right after medical treatment. If your medication has a warning about being out in the sun or heat, then do take it seriously and limit your time and activities outdoors in the summer.
Symptoms of dehydration can worsen and cause more serious problems if you don’t address them. Dizziness, headache, darkened urine, confusion and weakness are serious symptoms, and indicate that emergency medical services should be contacted immediately. Low blood pressure and rapid pulse are signs that intravenous fluids may be needed. If untreated, dehydration can lead to shock, heat exhaustion or heat stroke, according to WebMD.
So, before you leave for that baseball game or picnic this summer, dress in light, loose clothing, put on a hat, bring water bottles, personal fans, and pack some ice chips or a Popsicle in your cooler. Find an air-conditioned spot for a break every few hours. Learn the symptoms of dehydration and heat-caused illnesses, and be prepared to protect yourself.
Drink that water; it’s good for you!
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