When the weather gets warmer we naturally need to drink more and often feel thirsty, however, an unquenchable thirst could be a sign of something more serious than needing a drink.
Dehydration is not a case of just being thirsty – it can become a serious health problem. Older people are particularly vulnerable to becoming dehydrated because as we age the quantity of total body water as a proportion of body weight decreases. Put simply, the older body looses its capacity to retain fluid. Active older people can dehydrate very easily throughout the summer months with outdoor activities like travel, golfing and gardening. Whilst body fluids can be lost through vomiting, diarrhoea and fever, older people should not ignore the risk of heat stress that can occur during summer – especially during a long, hot summer like the one we’re expecting! And don’t be fooled by humidity. Humid conditions reduce evaporation of perspiration from the skin. This in turn impedes the body’s ability to cool down, so we perspire more, losing more of those important fluids and body salts (electrolytes).
Be aware of:
- Sunken eyes
- No urine or dark coloured urine ( the darker the urine the more dehydrated the body)
- Pinch test - gently pull the skin in a pinch on the back of the hand. If the skin returns to normal slowly, or leaves a white mark, the body is dehydrated.
- Unquenchable thirst
Try to prevent dehydration in the first place, but if you notice the dehydration symptoms, immediately:
- Sponge with a damp cloth
- Keep cool and calm
- Take steps to rehydrate as quickly as possible
- Seek medical advice if you remain dehydrated.
Preventing dehydration is about more than just drinking plenty. As well as what you should do, here is what you shouldn't:
- Don't drink sugar based drinks such as full strength fruit juice, cordials, soft drinks or sports drinks if you are experiencing moderate symptoms. These can cause further dehydration.
- Don’t rely on water alone, as it does not contain electrolytes needed to retain fluid.
- Don't ignore the problem. Older people can become seriously ill very quickly with dehydration.
It is not always a quick fix to have a drink of water because the body needs both fluid and electrolytes to operate properly. It might be worth keeping a scientifically formulated rehydration solution, like Hydralyte, in the cupboard to help speed up re-hydration by quickly replacing the fluid and lost salts.
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