Summertime brings plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends, but recent record-breaking temperatures across the US have made dehydration a real concern for many people. Dehydration is a condition in which the body does not produce or have the amount of water that it needs to properly function. It’s important to note that this condition can occur for many reasons, in addition to increased heat exposure. Some other causes of dehydration are excessive perspiration, not drinking enough water, the side effects of certain medications, and fluid loss from an illness such as a stomach viruses. Let’s take a closer look at the dangers of dehydration and what precautionary steps can be taken for prevention.
Our bodies are comprised of nearly 60% water, and this fluid aids important processes like creating saliva, managing digestion, regulating body temperature, helping to transport and move nutrients and bodily fluids and more. In order to function properly, our bodies needs a certain amount of water each day. If we become dehydrated, one or more of these important functions may be interrupted or may cease altogether. Depending on the severity of the lack of fluid, the condition may be classified as mild, moderate or severe. If left unchecked, dehydration can result in several temporary or permanent health conditions such as:
- Heat injuries (e.g. migraine headaches, muscle cramps, heat stroke or heat exhaustion).
- Seizures brought on by an imbalance of electrolytes.
- Kidney problems such as urinary tract infections or kidney stones, or in a worst-case scenario – kidney failure.
- A life-threatening drop in blood pressure due to a reduction in blood volume.
- Damage to nerve and muscle function.
- In severe cases, dehydration can result in death.
In some cases the symptoms of dehydration may be very obvious, but occasionally they are less straightforward and can be incorrectly attributed to a different health condition. In addition to an excessive thirst and a dry, sticky mouth, the warning signs of dehydration can include one or more of the following:
- No urine or urine that is dark in color.
- Skin that is dry and cool.
- Headaches and muscle cramps or muscle aches.
- Increased heart rate.
- Rapid breathing (respiration).
- Fatigue, lethargy or sleepiness.
- Dizziness or fainting.
- Irritability or confusion.
The first step in avoiding dehydration is to drink plenty of water. As a general rule of thumb, adults should consume approximately eight eight-ounces glasses of water per day. However, older adults, those who live in warm climates and those with certain health conditions should drink even more water, as these groups are at greater risk for experiencing dehydration. Here are some tips and tricks to make it less challenging to consume 64-ounces of water per day,
- Keep a container of water nearby and take sips throughout the day, rather than drinking large amounts all at once.
- Avoid beverages that contain caffeine as it can contribute to dehydration.
- Consume fruits and vegetables that have a high water content.
- Experiment with drinking water at different temperatures or adding a slice of lemon or a sprig of mint to your glass. Finding your personal preference will make water consumption easier.
- Enjoy popsicles as a dessert or snack.
- Keep a large bottle or carafe of water placed in each room so that it’s always easily accessible.
- Every time you go outside – whether for a short stroll or a longer outing – bring your own water bottle and take sips often.
Greater emphasis on self-care and wellness will contribute directly to your longevity, health and overall wellbeing. At Lighthouse Senior Living we believe that enjoying a wide variety of activities is one of the keys to a robust and vibrant life. Schedule a tour today to learn more about our lifestyle.