As we all know, our bodies are composed of mostly water – nearly 65%. 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, when it is hot outside and we can feel ourselves losing water through perspiration. That is also the time when we most often hear about the need to hydrate – “Drink plenty of water.” Yet, in winter, the risk of dehydration is also very real. The causes for fluid loss may still be present, but without the frequent or commonly thought of warning sign.
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 sense of thirst
Below are some of the signs and symptoms of dehydration from David E. Thomas, M.D.
- Decreased urine output – urine will become concentrated and more yellow in color
- Dry nasal passages
- Dry, cracked lips, dry mouth, eyes stop making tears, sweating may stop, muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting, light headedness (especially when standing), weakness will occur as the brain and other body organs receive less blood
- Coma and organ failure will occur if the dehydration remains untreated
- Irritability and confusion in the elderly should also be heeded immediately
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:
- Fluid replacement is the treatment for dehydration. This can include: water, juice, soups, clear broth, Popsicles, Jell-O, ice cream, milk, puddings, decaffeinated beverages, Kool-Aid, nutritional drink supplements (Ensure, Boost, Sustacal, Resource and instant breakfast drinks), and replacement fluids that may contain electrolytes (Pedialyte, Gatorade, Powerade, etc.).
- Reduce or eliminate dehydrating beverages such as coffee, tea, and soft drinks(unless decaffeinated). But even decaffeinated drinks can contribute to dehydration. Beware of alcohol intake too. Alcoholic beverages increase risk of dehydration because the body requires additional water to metabolize alcohol and it also acts as a diuretic.
- If you drink the unhealthy beverages, you need to add even more water to your daily total. The dehydration caused by those drinks must be compensated for by increasing the amount of water you consume.
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Most have a high water content.
- Drink water throughout the day in small amounts. It is not good to suddenly gulp down 64 ounces of water. You can fill a 24-32 ounce tumbler in the morning, refill it by late morning, and refill it again for the afternoon. Consume that by 5 PM. Most people need to start limiting fluids 1-3 hours before bedtime.
- Individuals with vomiting and diarrhea can try to alter their diet and use medications to control symptoms to minimize water loss. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be used to control fever.
Keep in mind:
If an individual becomes confused or lethargic; if there is persistent uncontrolled fever, vomiting, or diarrhea; or there are any other specific concerns, then medical care should be accessed. Call 911 for any patient with altered mental state – confusion, lethargy, or coma.
Water helps us fight disease in our bodies, maintain healthy weight, keeps us on a level emotional playing field, and helps all of our organs and cells function properly.
Remember, we need water long before we feel thirsty.