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What are the Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration?

June 12, 2022

Summer has officially begun, and the temperatures are soaring – but before you head outdoors, take a moment to review the following signs of dehydration, how to treat and prevent it, and how to safely spend time outside this season.

What is Dehydration?

Dehydration occurs when the body’s water content becomes depleted. Older adults are already at risk of dehydration due to health conditions (such as undiagnosed or untreated diabetes) and medications. Warm weather presents an added risk for these individuals, as excessive heat causes sweating and a depletion of the body’s water supply. Seniors with dementia face an even greater risk of dehydration, as they might not remember to drink or be able to communicate that they are experiencing symptoms of dehydration.

What Are The Symptoms of Dehydration?

  • Excessive thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Infrequent urination that is dark in color
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

If you experience disorientation, inability to keep fluids down, dark or bloody stools, extreme sleepiness, or do not start feeling better after drinking water or replacing electrolytes, contact your doctor or call 911 immediately.

Treatment and Prevention

Dehydration leads to the loss of electrolytes – minerals in the body containing an electric charge vital to supporting hydration and regulating heart rate. Electrolytes lost through dehydration can be replenished by drinking a sports beverage or milk or eating foods like bananas, watermelon, or avocado.

Drinking fluids can treat mild or moderate dehydration, but more severe cases require medical treatment. To prevent dehydration, drink water throughout the day. Some might find it helpful to set reminders to drink or use a reusable water bottle labeled with ounces to track how much water has been consumed. If plain water doesn’t interest you, consider adding fresh fruit, herbs like mint or a squeeze of lemon for the flavor to make staying hydrated more enticing. If you are physically active, increase your water consumption accordingly. Incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet will also help increase your body’s water content. You may also need to discuss with your doctor any medications you might be taking that might contribute to dehydration as a side effect.

How to Keep Yourself Hydrated in The Heat

Summer temperatures make spending time outdoors a little trickier, but not impossible with a bit of heat safety awareness:

  • If you can move your activities to the air-conditioned indoors, do so. Shopping malls, churches, senior centers, movie theaters, and libraries are all great options for staying cool indoors.
  • Avoid being outdoors in the middle of the day when the sun is hottest; plan to be outside during the morning hours or later in the day when the sun is beginning to set
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a hat to block the sun
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol intake, as these contribute to dehydration
  • Cool washcloths or cooling towels are excellent options for on-the-spot cooldowns as needed
  • Drink plenty of water and don’t wait to drink until you’re thirsty
  • Be aware of humidity levels in addition to the temperature; even a seemingly lower temperature coupled with high relative humidity produces a dangerous heat index which seniors should avoid being outdoors – or at the very least exercise extra precautions if being outside is necessary