Dehydration is one of the more common results of heat exhaustion and the one people are most familiar with and guard against. Simply put, it occurs when the body loses more fluids than it takes in. This throws the body into a state of imbalance which, if left untreated, could lead to death.
Causes of dehydration include the following conditions where there is an obvious loss of fluid:Fever
- Heat exposure
Interestingly, other less obvious causes of dehydration include:
- Diabetes which can cause dehydration if glucose levels are elevated for too long a period. The kidneys seek to remove the extra glucose through the urine, thereby increasing the risk of dehydration.
- Irritable bowel syndrome which is often accompanied by diarrhea, a common cause of dehydration.
- Some prescription medications and dietary supplements can dehydrate the body so it is important
- to discuss this side effect with your doctor.
- Decreased sense of thirst with age which accompanies alterations in other physiological control
- systems in the elderly. Signs of dehydration are:
- Dry mouth
- Dark urine
- Lack of tears or sweat
More severe cases of dehydration may experience:
- Dry skin and shriveling
- Low blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Unconsciousness Treatments
The treatment for dehydration is similar to that of heat exposure in that it is important to keep the person cool and re-hydrated. Offer water or drinks infused with electrolytes in order to replace any that were lost. In the elderly, medical treatment is always a safe bet. Call the doctor immediately or go to the emergency room where they restore bodily fluids intravenously, check vital signs and probe for the underlying causes of the dehydration.
- Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. Always keep a bottle of water on hand or next to you on a side table or night table. Bring extra when you go outdoors. Assist the elderly and remind them to drink frequently.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol consumption since those drinks tend to be dehydrating.
- Stay in cool areas and limit your exposure to the sun especially in high heat index days and dayparts.
- Make sure your diet includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Aside from providing vital nutrients, they are foods with a high water content.
As always, David York Agency is available to assist in any way you need to ensure that your loved one gets the very best of care. We provide skilled home health aide services for the elderly in their home and are abreast of all the latest guidelines for seniors.