I'm not just a PT, I'm also a parent!

I'm not just a PT, I'm also a parent!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Dehydration: Signs, Symptoms, and Prevention

In my practice, especially with the geriatric population, I frequently notice that my patients show signs and symptoms of dehydration.  During this summer's heat wave, I have noticed this a bit more frequently and try to ensure that my patients drink water during and after their therapy sessions. 

Since the body is composed mainly of water, maintaining proper hydration is vital!  Severe complications of dehydration include seizures, heat exhaustion or heat stroke, kidney failure, coma, and ultimately death.  (Scary, I know!)

Signs and Symptoms of dehydration include:
  • lack of tears
  • decreased blood pressure caused by decreased blood volume
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • fatigue
  • muscle cramping
  • decreased skin elasticity (often called "tenting")
  • dark urine
  • constipation
  • dry mouth
  • thirst 
  • sunken fontanels (in infants)
Obviously, the signs and symptoms listed above can be signs and symptoms of a number of medical problems.  However, if you or someone you know presents with several of the signs and symptoms listed above, try increasing your water intake and see if your symptoms improve.  However, if you suspect that someone is dehydrated and he or she demonstrates altered mental status, lethargy, and/or coma, call 911!

Dehydration can be formally diagnosed in many ways.  Core body temperature can be an indicator of dehydration, as is lower blood pressure (hypotension).  Blood tests and urinalysis also are helpful in diagnosing dehydration.  

Here is a list of ways to prevent dehydration from the Mayo Clinic- Dehydration: Prevention.

Fortunately, in most cases, dehydration can be easily treated by giving clear liquids, either by mouth or by IV infusion.  Clear liquids include water, fruit juice, sports drinks, clear broth, popsicles, or gelatin.

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