Staying hydrated can be a challenge — especially for older adults. For a number of reasons, including a decreased ability to retain water and a less acute sense of thirst, older adults are at a heightened risk for dehydration; if left untreated, dehydration can lead to a number of more serious issues. If you’re planning to spend some time outdoors or in warm weather, be prepared: Watch for the signs of dehydration, bring along a spare bottle of water or two, and know where you can obtain fluids if you run out. Here are the signs to look out for.
1. Dry Mouth and Thirst
This is one of the earliest and most obvious signs that you need more fluids, but many of us ignore it. By the time your mouth is dry, you’re already in a mild state of dehydration, and you’re playing catch-up on your fluid intake. Don’t wait for that thirst sensation. Unless restricted by your doctor, try to maintain a steady intake of fluids as much as possible.
2. Urinary Changes
Other early signs of dehydration can be detected through bodily functions, such as a decrease in urinary output and urine that’s darker than normal. There are other medical conditions that could create these symptoms, but you should suspect dehydration as a culprit. The Mayo Clinic recommends keeping urine clear or light-colored by increasing your water intake.
You may think you have a bit of a hangover if you indulged in one too many margaritas, or perhaps you need an updated vision prescription, but a headache is also a possible sign of dehydration. Much like in the case of a hangover, which stems from dehydration related to alcohol consumption, dehydration can cause mild to severe headaches that seem otherwise undiagnosed. So, take it easy on the cocktails, and be sure to replenish fluids with some non-alcoholic refreshments, fruits, and water.
This symptom may not be as obvious as the other five signs of dehydration and often takes longer to manifest, but chronic constipation could be related to long-term mild dehydration. If your stool is hard, you probably aren’t getting enough fluids. Try drinking more water before asking your doctor about laxatives.
If dehydration becomes severe enough to cause dizziness, you need to seek medical attention. Severe dehydration, especially when combined with warm temperatures, puts you at high risk for such illnesses as heatstroke, which can be life threatening. The Mayo Clinic recommends seeking immediate medical attention for dizziness related to possible severe dehydration, as well as symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, sunken eyes, confusion, low blood pressure, and lack of urination.
If your symptoms seem mild, simply increase your water intake or consider special products designed to replace electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium. For this purpose, many brands of sports drinks are readily available at your local convenience store. Keep yourself safe and hydrated!