Haims: The dangers of dehydration in the Vail Valley (column)
As we all know, our bodies are composed of mostly water — nearly 65 percent. This makes it imperative that we focus on hydration at all times of the year.
Unfortunately, most of us only consider combating our body’s loss of water during the summer months. That is also the time when we most often hear about the need to hydrate — “Drink plenty of water.”
Not only does water help our body regulate our temperature, it also flushes waste via urination, lubricates and cushions our joints, assists in digestion and helps stabilize our heartbeat.
Here in the mountains of Colorado, winter months and altitude can greatly exacerbate one’s likelihood of dehydration. Low humidity and oxygen levels, combined with higher rates of respiration and increased rates of sweat evaporation can cause people to lose water through respiration at high altitude twice as quickly than at sea level.
Below are some of the signs and symptoms of dehydration:
dry, cracked lips, dry mouth, eyes stop making tears, sweating may stop, muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting;
light-headedness (especially when standing);
irritability and confusion in the elderly should also be heeded immediately.
For the elderly, dehydration can present symptoms that may cause concern of other ailments such as cramps, low blood pressure, confusion and irritability, unconsciousness or delirium and sunken eyes. In extreme circumstances dehydration may cause seizures, brain swelling, kidney stones and even diabetes and dementia.
Some reasons for lack of water retention include:
fever from the flu;
diarrhea from a stomach virus;
vomiting from stomach illness;
increased urination from certain types of medications;
the aging process may cause a reduction in a sense of thirst.
As is often the case in medicine, prevention is the important first step in the treatment of dehydration. Here are six remedies and ways to prevent dehydration:
1. Fluid replacement is the treatment for dehydration. This can include: water, juice, clear broth, Popsicles, Jell-O, ice cream, milk and drinks with electrolytes.
2. Reduce or eliminate dehydrating beverages such as coffee, tea and soft drinks. Beware of alcohol intake too. Alcoholic beverages increase risk of dehydration because the body requires additional water to metabolize alcohol.
3. If you drink the unhealthy beverages, you need to add even more water to your daily total intake.
4. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Most are high in water content.
5. Drink water throughout the day in small amounts. It is not good to suddenly gulp down 64 ounces of water. Consider carrying around a bottle and refilling it.
6. Individuals with vomiting and diarrhea can try to alter their diet and use medications to control symptoms to minimize water loss.
Keep in mind: If an individual becomes confused or lethargic; if there is persistent uncontrolled fever, vomiting or diarrhea; then medical care should be accessed. Call 911 for anyone with altered mental state — confusion, lethargy or coma.
Water helps every part of our body. Drink up.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. Contact him at http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.