Older Adults Must Pay Attention To Dehydration

Outdoor Activities in the Heat Can Exacerbate Risk

Dehydration is a concern for everyone enjoying outdoor activities in the summer heat, or for those who don’t have access to air conditioning. Senior citizens, in particular, are more susceptible to the danger of dehydration, so it’s important for those in their golden years to pay attention when the mercury rises.

Seniors often don’t get enough water, and this can lead to an increase in body temperature. The sensation of thirst decreases with aging, except perhaps for the occasional brandy old-fashioned at Simpson’s (but alcohol is not hydrating and can actually increase dehydration). Additionally, as people age, they have less fluid stored in their bodies—they tend to lose muscle and retain fat, and less water is contained in fat cells than in muscle cells.

Only one sweaty activity session in a warm environment, such as dancing the night away at a summer concert at the Indian Crossing Casino, can cause you to lose up to two liters of fluid. The key is to take in as much or more fluid than you are losing. Remember, this does not mean stopping for a Spotted Cow at your favorite pub. Like Tobias, my boxer who frequents the dog park in King, visit the water bowl (or water bottle) and drink often.   

If plain water doesn’t float your boat, sip on a sports drink like PowerAde or Gatorade.  Supplements like Pedialyte contain electrolytes that can replenish the nutrients that you lose through sweating. These drinks and supplements can be purchased at one of Waupaca’s pharmacies.

How do you tell if you are getting dehydrated? One sign is if your urine is darker, or you are urinating less often, with lesser amounts. Are your armpits dry when you should be sweating? You could be at greater risk for dehydration on a hot day.

Other times, you may demonstrate some non-specific symptoms, such as just feeling kind of “punky” after a weekend of boating on the Chain-o-Lakes. If something’s not feeling right, see your doctor. Time spent in the summer heat, even just walking to Little Fat Gretchen’s for a slice of pie, can lead to dehydration and heat exhaustion. This condition can be very serious.

If you exhibit severe symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness, diarrhea, muscle cramps, sleepiness or confusion, please have someone transport you to the ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca emergency room. Early diagnosis of dehydration can save your life.

Christine Burnett is a nurse practitioner for ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca, specializing in adults and gerontology