Elana Craemer, Family Medicine, MemorialCare Medical Group
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the way people live everyday life has changed, especially for seniors. Seniors are a vulnerable population that should continue to practice social distancing and wear a face covering when leaving the house for essential errands. As you age, your body may not pick up on warning signs that are crucial to your health. It’s important to know these warning signs during the summer, especially the signs of thirst and dehydration.
As the weather begins to warm up, it’s especially important for seniors to make sure you are taking the appropriate precautions to stay cool and hydrated. Some of the leading cases for hospital visits in those older than 60 during the summer are dehydration and heat stroke. If dehydration is untreated it can turn into heat stroke, so it’s important to know the signs, ways to prevent them and how they can negatively affect your health and body.
Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluids than it has taken in. This means there is not enough water and other important fluids in your body. As you grow older, your brain reacts slower to the sense of thirst. This decreased sense, combined with age-related memory loss can make it especially difficult to remember to drink water throughout the day. Anyone can become dehydrated, but it is particularly dangerous as you age.
Untreated dehydration can be life threatening in those over 65, so it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms. These include:
If these primary signs are overlooked, severe dehydration can occur, which can lead to other heat-related health issues. Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency and occurs when your body overheats due to overexertion during physical activity or prolonged exposure to heat, usually in combination with dehydration. Over time, your body becomes less efficient at regulating its temperature. Even a short walk in the heat can be dangerous if you don’t take the proper precautions.
Common symptoms include:
Tips to Stay Hydrated
Seniors should be aware of your water intake and how often you are exposed to the sun. It’s helpful to have scheduled drinking times to ensure you are drinking enough water throughout the day. You also should carry a water bottle everywhere you go to make sure you always have access to fresh water or hit small goals throughout the day to drink 8 ounces of water. Two ounces by 10:30 a.m., 4 ounces by noon, 6 ounces by 1:30 p.m., and 8 ounces by 3 p.m.
Staying well hydrated helps prevent serious complications, which is why it’s important to take the proper precautions to prevent further issues. You can tell if you are properly hydrated by monitoring your urine color. Generally, a light-yellow color or clear urine indicates you are properly hydrated.
Long-term dehydration or heat stroke can seriously affect the brain, heart, kidneys and muscles, especially in those older than 60. Failure to prevent these conditions puts you at an increased risk of:
Although dehydration and heat stroke can lead to serious complications, they are very preventable. Prevention tips include:
It’s beneficial for seniors to understand the importance of staying hydrated, especially during the summer. Following these tips for avoiding dehydration and heat stroke can help ensure you continue to safely enjoy the summer time.
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