As temperatures continue to rise, the risk of heat exhaustion, heat stroke and dehydration also rise among adults 65 years of age and older. An expert at Baylor College of Medicine offers tips on how to recognize dehydration and stay hydrated and ways to manage the heat this summer.
“Aging affects the body’s ability to regulate heat,” said Dr. Robert Roush, professor of medicine-geriatrics at Baylor. “As we age, we also lose our sense of thirst; it’s a normal age-related change.”
In addition to losing the ability to feel thirsty, excessive heat also plays a role in dehydration in elder adults. Dehydration in combination with high temperatures can lead to many health concerns, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Signs and symptoms of dehydration include:
- Dry mouth
- Irritability and confusion
- Lack of sweating
- Sunken eyes
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid breathing
“These are the most severe signs of dehydration, and some people may even die if they don’t get rehydrated,” Roush said.
A specific group of elder individuals who have an increased risk of dehydration are those who have diabetes. “People with diabetes get dehydrated more quickly than those without diabetes,” he said.
Not drinking enough fluids can raise blood sugar, which can lead to more frequent urination that causes dehydration. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 25.9 percent of individuals with diabetes in the United Sates are 65 years of age or older.
A great way to beat the heat and prevent dehydration is to exercise indoors. Roush recommends taking walks at malls instead of the outdoors. “Exercising and walking in malls is great because it is air conditioned and you lose the risk of getting overheated. Exercise is highly recommended for older adults so I suggest going to your local mall to have a nice walk,” he said.
Another way to prevent dehydration is for elders to always carry a bottle of water around, even if they are not thirsty. Drinks such as sports drinks also are recommended to stay hydrated. For caregivers, Roush said it is important to document the elder adults’ intake of water to ensure they are getting enough fluids.
“One main way in preventing dehydration is to drink more fluids, even if you don’t want to. It sounds so simple to just drink some water, but the question is do you actually do it,” he said.