Summer Safety: Protecting Seniors from Dehydration and Heat-related Illnesses



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Seniors and Dehydration

One hot summer afternoon a few years ago, I attended a Little League baseball game where my son was playing. 

A few innings into the game, the umpire made a questionable call, and fans of both teams shouted their complaints, “What kind of call was that?” 

Suddenly, that umpire stumbled against the fence and passed unconscious on the field. The crowd fell silent for a moment, then people rushed to his aid. 

Fortunately, the fire station was nearby, and paramedics rushed to help him.

At-Risk in Summer

Everyone needs to be aware of getting too hot and becoming ill on hot days. In particular, the elderly and sick can be vulnerable on stifling hot days. 

In the summer, most people want to be outdoors for baseball games, picnics, gardening, travel, and other outdoor activities. It’s also time to look for dehydration symptoms and heat-caused illnesses, like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Dehydration can sneak up on you. Feeling tired, sweaty, and drained after being out in the heat is natural. Sweating after exercise is just natural. These are natural. Your thirst tells you to drink some fluid because your body needs it.

Drink up!

Take time to drink an 8 oz. glass of water after exercising or being out in the heat. Drink fluids at each meal. 

How much? 

Men should drink 13 cups of water each day. According to the Institute of Medicine quoted on the Mayo Clinic website, women should drink 9 cups of water each day. 

That water can come from various foods and beverages besides water. Juicy fruits and vegetables, like tomatoes, watermelon, or cantaloupe, have lots of fluid. Milk and juice can take the place of water.

Coffee, tea, and cold drinks which contain caffeine should be limited when you are out in the heat. Alcoholic beverages should also be limited. 

Both caffeine and alcohol have a diuretic effect, which can cause your body to lose fluids by urinating more.

The Pinch Test

Today, check yourself and your elderly loved ones for a common indicator of Dehydration using a tip I found on the website WebMD. Gently pinch the skin on the forearm. 

If the skin holds that pinched position rather than returning to its normal shape, you must drink some water.

Medications and Dehydration

In addition, some medications can cause Dehydration to happen easily. Be aware of the side effects of medications your loved ones take, and take precautions. 

For example, the Little League umpire I mentioned had ignored a warning on his medication bottle to stay out of the sun. Fortunately, he was all right after medical treatment. 

If your medication warns about being out in the sun or heat, do take it seriously and limit your time and activities outdoors in the summer.

Serious Symptoms

Symptoms of Dehydration can worsen and cause more serious problems if you don’t address them. Dizziness, headache, darkened urine, confusion, and weakness are serious symptoms and indicate that emergency medical services should be contacted immediately. 

Low blood pressure and a rapid pulse indicate that intravenous fluids may be needed. If untreated, dehydration can lead to shock, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke, according to WebMD.

Cool Down

So, before you leave for that baseball game or picnic this summer, dress in light, loose clothing, put on a hat, bring water bottles and personal fans, and pack some ice chips or a Popsicle in your cooler. 

Find an air-conditioned spot for a break every few hours. Learn the symptoms of Dehydration and heat-caused illnesses, and be prepared to protect yourself.

Drink that water; it’s good for you!