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Dehydration in Elderly – The Hidden Problem With Serious Effects

The word “dehydration” conjures images of people staying too long in the hot sun or otherwise being deprived of fluids, but dehydration can happen to anyone, at any time, and can affect your body’s ability to perform basic functions. Here are a few facts on how dehydration develops and how it can affect your everyday health and activities.

What is Dehydration?

Dehydration occurs when individuals use up more fluids than they take into their bodies by drinking or consumption of food. Because the human body is mainly made up of water, small changes in fluid levels can cause noticeable reactions. Most people are not aware they have become dehydrated. They may experience vague symptoms, but do not connect these effects with their fluid consumption.

Signs of Dehydration

Dehydration may exhibit a number of symptoms, some of which may be slight and which you may attribute to poor eating habits or excessive activity. However, it can rapidly develop into a life-threatening medical problem that should be treated immediately. Common symptoms of dehydration include:

· Fatigue

· Thirst

· Headache

· Dry skin

· Dizziness or feeling light-headed

· Dry mouth

· Decreased urine output

· Decreased tears or no tears

· Sunken eyes

· Skin that does not plump back when pinched

· Low blood pressure

· Rapid heartbeat

· Rapid breathing

· Delirium

Who is Most Likely to Suffer from Dehydration?

· Babies and small children are vulnerable to dehydration because of their small body weight and fast turnover of water and electrolytes in the bloodstream.

· The elderly often suffer from dehydration because their ability to conserve water in their bodies is reduced. In addition, older people eat less than younger individuals and may forget to drink frequently.

· Athletes require more frequent hydration because they deplete their water reserves with vigorous activity and sweating.

· People with illnesses may become dehydrated because of fever or because their bodies do not process water efficiently.

· Individuals who work outdoors or exercise outdoors may become dehydrated in hot weather when sweating quickly depletes body reserves of water.

· Individuals who live at high altitudes may get dehydrated when they try to adjust to the increased elevation by breathing more rapidly and urinating more frequently.

What You Can Do to Prevent Dehydration

When working or playing in the hot sun, take frequent breaks in the shade and drink liquids every few minutes to prevent becoming dehydrated. If you exercise vigorously outdoors, make sure you bring along bottles of water to replenish your lost reserves. When children experience repeated bouts of vomiting or diarrhea, they can quickly become dehydrated. Provide ice chips, Popsicles, and other sources of water to replenish fluid levels. If you suspect dehydration, seek medical advice immediately. Make a habit of keeping a bottle of water with you and sipping from it throughout the day.

Beverages to Prevent Dehydration

Avoid alcoholic drinks and caffeinated drinks, which deplete the body’s water reserves. Sports drinks provide additional sodium and potassium that are lost through normal perspiration. Plain water is the best for rehydrating, but you can also dilute fruit juice or fruit drinks for effective replenishment of fluids.

Providing good hydration can be a part of your daily body maintenance like eating right or exercising regularly. Ensure your body has enough fluids, and you will feel better and function more effectively.

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