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July and August are the two hottest months in Western Washington and may put us at risk for dehydration. Dehydration is one of the most frequent causes of hospitalization in people over 60 years of age.
You probably know that dehydration causes a dry mouth, thirst, headache, dark-colored urine, and dizziness, but did you know that chronic dehydration can also lead to the following issues?
- Skin disorders
- Poor kidney function, kidney stones, or urinary tract infections
- Higher risk of falling
- Fatigue / weakness
- Confusion / disorientation
Besides hot weather, dehydration can be the result of less water intake from a diminished sense of thirst, certain medications that increase water loss, or intentionally avoiding fluids due to fear of incontinence or nighttime bathroom trips. Having a fever, vigorous exercise, and vomiting or diarrhea can cause dehydration quickly.
We’ve all heard that healthy people should drink 6 - 8 glasses of fluids daily (NOTE: some health conditions require limiting fluids – ask your healthcare provider how much you should consume each day). Fluids are not limited to plain water - here are some suggestions for enjoying a healthy fluid intake:
*Fruited water, add fresh berries, lemons, limes, etc.
*Herbal teas, hot or iced, with fruit or fruit juice added if desired
*Milk, if tolerated
*Flavored gelatin (“Jell-0”)
*High water-content foods such as watermelon (92% water), cucumber (96%), zucchini (95%)
*Decaffeinated coffee, hot or iced
(NOTE: caffeine and alcohol act as diuretics and increase water loss, so these don’t count in your fluid intake)
To get fluids in throughout the day, drink a glass of water (or other healthy liquid):
- When you get up in the morning.
- When you take your medications (rather than just a sip of water).
- With each meal and snack.
- Before, during, and after exercise or an activity.
Also, eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables (they have a high water content).
Final thought on dehydration! If you are experiencing dizziness, confusion, weakness, or are unable to care for yourself, call 911 as dehydration can be fatal. IV fluids can restore not only your fluid balance, but your essential electrolyte levels, too.
Marla LeFevre, RN
Director of Health Services
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