During the summer, the hotter temperatures can lead dehydration to become one of the greatest threats facing many seniors. In fact, the heat and temptation to enjoy the outdoors can put anyone at risk for dehydration and heat-related illnesses.
Becoming overheated or severely dehydrated can be deadly. Without healthy hydration, many of the primary functions of your body can struggle to work properly. You can see this in the clear symptoms of severe dehydration. For example, if you’re dehydrated, your body can struggle to regulate your core body temperature and keep it in a safe range. This makes drinking enough fluids and recognizing the signs of dehydration essential to preventing and remedying it.
Symptoms of Mild to Moderate Dehydration
Looking for the early symptoms of dehydration can allow you to stop the problem before it becomes worse. Luckily, these signs are pretty easy to spot in yourself. They may be more difficult to see in others, so if you notice a loved one complaining about any of the following, you may want to suggest they drink a nice cool glass of water to refill on liquids!
Your body has a neat way of telling you when it needs more water — thirst. In fact, if you’re thirsty, you’re likely already slightly dehydrated. Just like how hunger is a sign from your body that tells you to eat, thirst is your body saying it needs liquids. Sometimes, if you’re feeling hungry, it’s worth taking a sip of water, too, since our bodies can be bad at telling the difference between the two signs.
A second early sign of dehydration is a headache. In fact, dehydration is a common cause of headaches. A dehydration headache is caused when the brain temporarily shrinks due to a lack of fluids. This can be a fairly mild event or even set off a migraine.
There are many theories behind why we get muscle cramps, but one of the most prevalent has to do with dehydration. The logic behind this is that hydration helps our muscles function properly. When we’re running low on water, fluids are prioritized for more important functions than surrounding muscles, which can irritate the muscles, causing the cramps.
Another way to identify dehydration is by checking your skin. While there’s a big difference between dry skin and dehydrated skin, there should be enough clues to give you an idea of why your skin looks the way it does. An easy way to tell if you’re dehydrated is with the skin pinch test. Simply take a bit of skin and lightly pinch it. If you notice any wrinkling, or if your skin doesn’t snap right back into place, you’re likely dehydrated. Other signs of dehydrated skin are itchiness, increased sensitivity, dullness, and increased fine lines and wrinkles.
Dark Colored Urine
In many cases, dark urine is also a symptom of dehydration. When your body is low on liquid, your kidneys signal to your body to hold on to what it has. This causes the urine to be more concentrated, thus making it darker in color. Urine usually should be a light yellow, so the darker it appears, the more dehydrated you likely are.
Signs of Severe Dehydration
If you don’t catch the early signs of dehyrdation, severe dehydration may begin to set in. As the name suggests, once these symptoms begin popping up, you should act immediately. All these signs help show how integral hydration is to our bodies running smoothly. As we lack liquid, certain systems begin to stop functioning properly or cease functioning altogether!
Increased Heart Rate or Blood Sugar or Low Blood Pressure
Hydration is important to a healthy heart, as evidenced by multiple essential heart health factors becoming worse in times of extreme dehydration. For example, chronic dehydration can lead to elevated blood sugar levels and may cause the levels to spike when dehydration is severe. At the same time, severe dehydration can cause your heart rate to skyrocket and can also lower your blood pressure.
Nausea or Diarrhea
Two incredibly dangerous signs of severe dehydration are nausea (and vomiting) and diarrhea. Vomiting from dehydration is caused due to the brain overheating, since liquids help regulate body temperature. When that occurs, the brain signals the stomach to empty contents in hopes of cooling the system down. If someone is struggling with diarrhea, you’ll want to keep them hydrated because diarrhea is a leading cause of dehydration. In worst case scenarios, diarrhea and vomiting can severely worsen your condition, making your dehydration life-threatening.
Dizziness, Confusion, or Fainting
While a headache is a symptom of a mild to moderate case of dehydration, as the situation worsens, so too does the effect on your brain. In bad cases, dehydration can cause debilitating conditions like delirium, confusion, and dizziness. As your condition worsens, you may even faint. Water is instrumental sending important nutrients and oxygen throughout the body in your blood. If this supply is comprised by dehydration, it can cause these functions to weaken or shut down, which can lead to fainting.
What to Do If You’re Dehydrated
If you or a loved one is showing signs of mild to moderate dehydration, it’s important to act before the situation gets worse. First and foremost, this means rehydrating. Drink water or a sports drink with electrolytes to help replenish the fluids you’ve lost. At the same time, you’ll want to stop whatever you’re doing that’s causing the dehydration and possibly relocate. For example, if you’re at a 4th of July party on a hot day, and you’re showing symptoms of dehydration, just drinking water may not be enough. Instead, relocate to a cooler area, like indoors in the air conditioning, until you start to feel better.
If you or a loved one are showing signs of severe dehydration, or if you’re still showing symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration after relocating and rehydrating, seek medical attention!
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Dehydration is a very common ailment, and you deal with it whenever you’re thirsty. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taken seriously, especially when more severe symptoms begin to show. Knowing the early signs and when to seek help can prevent a summer barbecue or nice day from becoming a tragedy.