Baby boomers and Dehydration

June 2, 2019

Baby boomers are prone to dehydration


Summer is just around the corner, so we will focus on dehydration. There are a few things that boomers need to consider. The older adult goes through several physiologic changes and more prone to dehydration than younger person. The 65 year-olds and above have 10% less body fluid than the younger ones. Their sense of taste also diminishes with age, causing them to have lower interest in food containing water. They also take time responding to their body’s needs like thirst and fail to drink enough. Physical inability may add to a lower fluid intake. I know of an older physician who avoided drinking to avoid going to the bathroom that “many times.”


Dehydration is the most common form of electrolyte disorder in older adults. Electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, are lost when a person is dehydrated. It is important to remember that dehydration is mostly due to an excess loss of water or fluid as well as decreased intake of water or fluid. With the extreme heat during summer and minimal intake of fluid, a boomer can easily develop dehydration.


Excess loss of water or fluids comes from several factors like environmental conditions like summer heat with high humidity, bowel preparations, diuretics, diarrhea, blood loss, vomiting, fever, infections, etcetera. On the other hand, impaired water or fluid intake comes from decreased functional ability, decrease in thirst sensation, imposed fluid restrictions, fatigue, pain, among others.


The most common symptoms of dehydration are confusion and disorientation. Adults may seem irritable and not understand where they are or who is around them. Restlessness and agitation are also frequently noted. Drowsiness developing into lethargy is not uncommon. A sudden fever is often the first sign that the older adult is suffering from dehydration Because the body does not have enough fluid to cool itself, a fever often results from dehydration.  In fever, do remember that the average temperature of the older adult is usually around 97 degrees F, rather than the 98.6 normal temperature of a younger person.


Don’t panic. Keep in mind that the most basic form of treating dehydration is to hydrate the older adult.


Dehydration is seen not only in adults, but in anybody exposed to several factors mentioned above. Staying hydrated is my number one advice to all.

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