Temperatures across eastern New Mexico hit triple digits this week — a good time to remind folks it’s important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, area physicians say.
When people are being active they lose fluids by breathing and sweating, said Dr. Richard Gritzmacher, a physician at Presbyterian Medical Services Quay County.
“Children and the elderly have a higher risk of dehydration,” Gritzmacher said. “Next to oxygen, water is the second most important thing for a human body.”
Gritzmacher said an early indicator for the young and old includes color in the urine and how often they urinate.
“If there is yellow color in their urine it is an indicator that they need more fluid,” he said. “If they do not urinate for extended periods of times that is another tell-tale sign that something might be going on.”
The body’s ability to cool itself and regulate its temperature is greatly affected by the amount of water in the body, said Dr. Matthew Foster, an emergency room physician at Roosevelt General Hospital in Portales.
“If dehydration becomes severe enough a body can lose its ability to cool itself,” Foster said. “That can lead to many health complications such as heat exhaustion, cramps and, in the most extreme cases, heat stroke.”
Gritzmacher said thirst is not the best indicator for dehydration in children or the elderly.
“The drinking patterns of a child vary,” Gritzmacher said. “Sometimes they will play many hours without drinking any liquids.”
Gritzmacher said it is important for a parent to schedule 30-minute break times throughout the day; a time when children can rest, relax and drink fluids.
Fluids such as Gatorade, juice, water and popsicles and snow cones can be given to children.
Water is the best solution for rehydration in the elderly, Foster said. “Drinks that contain electrolytes may interact with medication or an underlying illness,” he said.
Foster said the elderly should drink 1 1/2 to 2 quarts of water each day when they are not active. He said that amount should increase to 3-to-4 quarts if they are being active in the sun.
“Drink before, during and after an activity,” Foster said. “The best defense is always drinking plenty of fluids.”
Planning events and activities during the right time of day is another important factor in avoiding heat-related problems, the doctors said.
“Avoid doing activities in the heat of the day,” Gritzmacher said. “Early-morning hours and late afternoon are the best times for the elderly to do yard work and activities.”
Symptoms of dehydration in children and adults:
• sticky or dry mouths
• urinate less
• less active
• slightly fussy
• flushed face
• lightheaded or dizzy
• dry, warm skin
• cramping in arms and legs
• less alert
• very sleepy
• sunken eyes
• bloated stomach
• rapid and deep breathing
Rehydration can be attempted with frequent small amounts of clear fluids, including:
• clear broths
• other replacement fluids that may contain electrolytes (Pedialyte, Gatorade, Powerade, etc.)