Please enjoy this guest post by Ann Marie Moran, RN of The Eddy Visiting Nurse Association with VNSNY CHOICE Health Plans. Ann Marie will be a guest on RNFM Radio in the fall of 2016.
Dehydration occurs when someone loses more fluids than they take in, leaving the body with an insufficient amount of water to replace what has been lost throughout the day. The condition can present in various ways and can range in severity. For most people, dehydration is usually associated with high activity and heat; however, dehydration happens in the winter as well, and as the spring equinox approaches on March 20th, many may overlook the fact that the last days of winter can mean greater risk for health complications related to dehydration.
Cold weather can accelerate dehydration because our blood vessels are constricted and blood pressure is raised; in order to lower this pressure, the kidneys produce more urine, increasing the number of trips to the bathroom and the risk of our body losing the fluids needed to stay hydrated.
As a Registered Nurse Care Coordinator with The Eddy Visiting Nurse Association with VNSNY CHOICE Health Plans, I’ve discovered that many of our seniors are surprised to learn that they can become seriously dehydrated during the winter months. In order to stay happy, healthy and hydrated this winter, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Seniors Are At Greater Risk of Dehydration:
- Common Causes: People refusing to drink enough water or other non-caffeinated liquids, certain medical conditions such as diabetes, strenuous physical activity that results in a lot of sweating, certain medications such as ” water pills ” (Lasix, furosemide).
- Common Symptoms: It can be difficult to diagnose dehydration because the symptoms could be due to a number of health conditions. Signs to look out for are: cracked lips, dizziness and confusion, skin changes, sleepiness and weakness, weight loss, changes in urine.
Stay Aware of Your Body:
- Losing Fluids: People lose fluids due to vomiting, diarrhea, strenuous exercise and illnesses. Also, in cold weather people can lose fluids through their breath; whenever you can see your own breath it is really water vapor that your body is losing.
- Less Thirsty: You tend to feel less thirsty in the cold, so your body thinks it is properly hydrated. During the winter you can’t count on your body to tell you when to drink fluids.
Here Is What You Can Do:
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine: Although they are liquids, these fluids tend to dehydrate you more quickly. Try to limit your alcohol intake and do not exceed over 250 milligrams of caffeine per day. Try having at least 8-8 ounces of non-caffeinated fluids a day.
- Don’t ignore symptoms: As soon as you notice symptoms of dehydration, be sure to begin drinking water and if your condition does not improve, seek medical assistance. Consult your doctor if you are feeling confusing or sudden behavior changes, loss of consciousness, faint, shallow rapid breathing, seizure activity or showing gray or pale skin.
To learn more about health plans that help elder New Yorkers live more comfortably, safely and independently in their own homes, visit www.VNSNYCHOICE.org or call 1-855-AT CHOICE (1-855-282-4642).