Dehydration symptoms in the Elderly
It’s essential to keep hydrated but when the weather heats up, it’s easy to forget to drink enough . People often think they’re hungry and eat, when in fact they’re thirsty and need to sip still water (not fizzy drinks). It may seem trivial, but dehydration can lead to distressing symptoms, and can seriously impair physical and mental capacity. If untreated, it can lead to heat exhaustion, which may need hospital treatment. And above all it’s easy to avoid…
Over two thirds of the body is water, and on average, according to any First Aid Manual, people need 2.5 litres (four pints) of fluid daily to keep their body topped up. Dehydration is caused mainly by sweating and can begin just by exercising moderately on a warm day and not drinking enough fluids. It can also be the result of severe diarrhoea and/or vomiting, drinking too much alcohol, and urinating too frequently (eg, if you have diabetes). Dehydration also causes the body to lose essential salts, which can cause muscle cramps (see below).
What symptoms to look out for? What are the Signs of Dehydration ?
Dry Mouth and Eyes
Dry and/or Cracked Lips
Headaches or Light-Headedness
Dizziness and Confusion
Reduction in amount of Urine passed
Cramp in the most-used muscles, eg, the calves
When suffering dehydration the aim of first aid is to replace the lost water and salts. If someone shows any of the symptoms above, help them to sit down and give plenty of still water to sip slowly, until they recover. An oral rehydration solution (such as Boots Rehydration Treatment, £2.85 for six sachets), or an isotonic sports drink, such as Lucozade Sport, can help with replacing body salts.
If the person is suffering from cramp, stretch and massage the affected muscles, and advise them to rest. If possible, monitor their body temperature and pulse, and if they remain unwell, seek medical advice (you can phone NHS Direct on 0845 4647), call an ambulance or take them to hospital.