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Signs and Symptoms of Winter Dehydration in the Elderly and 8 Ways to Avoid Them

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By  David E Thomas M.D.

Page #1 Signs and Symptoms of Winter Dehydration in the Elderly and 8 Ways to Avoid Them

The body's initial signs and symptoms of dehydration are:

         Thirst

         Decreased urine output. The urine will become concentrated and more yellow in color.

         Fatigue

         Headache

         Dry nasal passages

         Dry, cracked lips dry mouth the eyes stop making tears sweating may stop muscle cramps nausea and vomiting lightheadedness (especially when standing). weakness will occur as the brain and other body organs receive less blood.

         Coma and organ failure will occur if the dehydration remains untreated.

         Irritability & confusion in the elderly should also be heeded immediately.

Here are some easy remedies and ways to prevent dehydration:

1.     As is often the case in medicine, prevention is the important first step in the treatment of dehydration.

2.     Fluid replacement is the treatment for dehydration. This can include: water, juice, soups and clear broths, Popsicles, Jell-O, ice cream, milk, puddings, decaffeinated beverages, Kool-Aid, nutritional drink supplements (Ensure, Boost, Sustacal, Resource and instant breakfast drinks), and replacement fluids that may contain electrolytes (Pedialyte, Gatorade, Powerade, etc.)

3.     Reduce or eliminate dehydrating beverages such as coffee, tea and soft drinks (unless decaffeinated). But even decaffeinated drinks can contribute to dehydration. Beware of alcohol intake too. Alcoholic beverages increase risk of dehydration because the body requires additional water to metabolize alcohol and it also acts as a diuretic.

4.     If you drink the unhealthy beverages, you need to add even more water to you daily total. The dehydration caused by those drinks must be compensated for by increasing the water.

5.     Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Most have a high water content.

6.     Drink water all day long in small amounts. It is not good to suddenly gulp down 64 ounces of water. You can fill a 24-32 ounce tumbler in the morning, refill it by late morning and refill again for the afternoon. Consume that by 5 PM. Most people need to start limiting fluids 1-3 hours before bedtime.

7.     Individuals with vomiting and diarrhea can try to alter their diet and use medications to control symptoms to minimize water loss. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be used to control fever.

8.     If an individual becomes confused or lethargic; if there is persistent, uncontrolled fever, vomiting, or diarrhea; or if there are any other specific concerns, then medical care should be accessed. Call 911 for any patient with altered mental status - confusion, lethargy, or coma.

Remember that the lack of a sense of thirst is not a reliable indicator of the need for water. You need water long before you feel thirsty.  

About the Author:

Dr. Thomas is a retired psychiatrist who is in the early stages of Lewy Body Dementia and Alzheimer's disease. He promotes education for senior citizens to maintain good health and about the signs and symptoms of the various dementia-like illnesses. He emphasizes preventative measures as well as treatment options for neurodegenerative diseases. He posts on a daily basis to his blog called "A Diary of a Physician Psychiatrist with Lewy Body Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease." He enjoys knitting, reading, playing number and word games as well as doing other brain training exercises. He and his wife live in Northwestern Pennsylvania. His blog can be read at http://knittingdoc.wordpress.com

 

Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic MA Licensed Psychologist Ph.D. Candidate                                      

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