Keeping your cool: ManorCare Williamsport Campus offers tips on preventing dehydration

Running through sprinklers or just sitting in the shade with a glass of lemonade. Everyone has their favorite way of keeping cool during the dog days of summer. For senior citizens, keeping cool — and hydrated — is more than just a matter of comfort; it can be a matter of life and death. Dehydration, or the loss of water and salts from the body, is one of the most common forms of heat disease, but it also can occur in humid or cold weather, at high altitudes or during increased physical exertion. It’s important to know how to recognize dehydration before it becomes a critical health problem.

Unfortunately, the early stages of dehydration do not exhibit symptoms, so you may not recognize that your body is in danger. According to Kendra Burrows, NHA at Manor Care Williamsport South, seniors are at greater risk because thirst sensation, sweat production and the ability to concentrate urine decline with age. “Dehydration gives general signals that do not become pronounced until the body is approaching the danger point,” she said. “Once a person exhibits symptoms such as thirst, dry mouth or decreased urine output, the person already is in the moderate stages of dehydration.” If you are mildly dehydrated, simply drinking enough liquid and eating food high in salt will replace fluids and electrolytes.

Symptoms of early or mild dehydration include a flushed face, thirst, dry, warm skin, dizziness, weakness, headaches, irritability and dry mouth. Moderate or severe dehydration symptoms include low blood pressure, fainting, severe muscle contractions, convulsions, a bloated stomach, sunken and dry eyes, rapid breathing, a lack of elasticity in the skin and a fast, weak pulse. If someone is exhibiting these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

To avoid dehydration, the experts offer a few tips:

• Start drinking plenty of water before activity and continue drinking throughout activity. Water should be cool, but not ice cold.

• Avoid fruit juices or non-diet soft drinks. Sugar can aggravate dehydration and cause bloating and cramps.

• Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages.

• Weigh yourself before and after activity. For each pound lost in weight, you need to drink a pint of water to replace the water lost through sweating.

• Not all fluid replacement must come from water. Other drinks consist mostly of water and foods contain water as well. However, thirst generally is a good guide for when you need to replace fluids, and water is generally the best choice.