About Senior Dehydration

So what is this about  senior dehydration?  According to Dictionary.com, it is “an abnormal loss of water from the body, especially from illness or physical exertion”

What is an “abnormal loss of water”?  It occurs sometimes when we are ill and experience diarrhea, “heaves” or “throwing up” as occasionally expressed.   

We are about 75% water by weight.  

According to Henry Parkman, MD, a gastroenterologist and professor of medicine at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, “Being dehydrated can be extremely dangerous”.

Our bodies contain electrolytes, which are the salts and minerals such as calcium, sodium, magnesium, and potassium that do things like conduct electrical impulses throughout your body and help power your cells.

Proper electrolyte balance in your body is critical to your heart health and also vital for your nerves and brain function.

Symptoms of Senior Dehydration

The symptoms of senior dehydration include:

      Dry mouth and tongue

      Lack of tears when crying

      Hasn’t wet a diaper (an infant) for three or more hours

      High fever

      Skin does not flatten when pinched or released

      Sunken eyes, cheeks, or stomach

      Listlessness or irritability

Anyone who has diarrhea needs to be monitored very carefully for dehydration.   “Dehydration needs to be treated promptly,” says Dr. Parkman.  “Some people with severe diarrhea may need to be hospitalized and given fluids intravenously".

How to Avoid Dehydration 

Increase your fluid intake.  But not just any fluid.  “Drink lots of clear fluids to replace the fluid you are losing,” Parkman says.  Excellent choices would include broths or soups that have sodium.  It is also good to sip fruit or vegetable juices.  The best juices are the ones that contain potassium.

“If you drink too much water, you can get hyponatremia, which is low sodium in the body fluids, and that causes its own set of problems” Parkman notes. 

Stay away from sodas and other drinks with lots of sugar, because they may actually worsen your dehydration.

Try for at least on eight-ounce glass of fluid per hour if you are experiencing diarrhea.  “It depends on the amount of diarrhea you’re experiencing”, says Parkman.  “The worse the condition, the more you need.  Drinking fluids while making frequent trips to the bathroom can be difficult, especially if you are also nauseated and vomiting.  It helps if you sip slowly and if the fluids are at room temperature rather than cold.

Reach for over-the-counter rehydration drinks.   Some very good such drinks are Pedialyte, Ceralyte, and Infalyte.  These are very good sources of electrolytes and recommended to kids who have diarrhea.  The good of sports drinks is that they replace the electrolytes lost and thus forestall dehydration .  The bad is they are high in sugar which, as mentioned above, could worsen dehydration and increase your diarrhea.

Drink ginger ale for what ails you.  While carbonated drinks are good to avoid, ginger ale that contains ginger has been shown to have a soothing effect on the intestines and can be a good choice for replacing fluids.

Avoid foods that trigger diarrhea (and dehydration).  Yes, this is a no brainer, but avoid fried, greasy, or spicy dishes.  Some dairy products can trigger diarrhea so it might be a good idea to avoid milk, milk shakes, or other dairy-based drinks.  Alcohol and caffeine: also good to avoid if you have trouble with loose bowel movements.

When the diarrhea is gone?  You may not be in a big hurry to eat again.  It’s OK to skip solid foods for a while to give your body a break for digesting food for a bit.  However, do not stop drinking clear fluids.  Young or old, when diarrhea strikes, avoiding dehydration should be the top priority.  After it subsides you can begin to reintroduce solid foods into your diet.  Start with semisolid, low in fiber, and easy to digest, such as white rice, bananas, or plain toast.

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