Feeling dehydrated? Here’s what’s happening in your body

Dehydration is so common among over 60s, yet some people are not aware of the dire consequences – and the

Dehydration is so common among over 60s, yet some people are not aware of the dire consequences – and the damage it can have on your body and health.

In this crazy weather across Australia, it can be much easier to become dehydrated so it’s important that we keep an eye on our fluid intake.

If you needed a wake up call to really drink more water, here’s what happens to your body when you are dehydrated:

According to research, by the time you feel thirsty your body is already dehydrated. This is because our thirst mechanism lags behind our actual level of hydration. Even 1% dehydration negatively affects your mood, attention, memory and motor coordination.

Then, as you lose water through urination and sweating, your blood becomes more concentrated and you urinate less. When your dehydrated body is pushed to its limits, the risk of exhaustion or collapse increases, which is worrying for over 60s.

When you’re dehydrated, your body is battling and making blood thicker because its borrowing water. The brain senses this and triggers the feeling of thirst, which usually makes you want some water, though as we mentioned above, by then it can be too late.

Unfortunately, as we get older, we don’t often feel thirsty, even though we are. This means we can forget to drink some water and stay hydrated, and can – in some cases – end up in hospital.

As we get older, our kidneys aren’t as good at removing toxins from our blood, therefore our kidneys aren’t as efficient, so we lose more water than we used to.

So how much should you drink? Contrary to some health information, you don’t need to have 8 glasses of water – according to the Institute of Medicine, the adequate water intake for adult men and women is 3.7 and 2.7 litres per day, respectively.

Symptoms of dehydration

Mild dehydration:
  • Dryness of mouth; dry tongue with thick saliva
  • Unable to urinate or pass only small amounts of urine; dark or deep yellow urine
  • Cramping in limbs
  • Headaches
  • Crying but with few or no tears
  • Weakness, general feeling of being unwell
  • Sleepiness or irritability
More serious dehydration:
  • Low blood pressure
  • Convulsions
  • Severe cramping and muscle contractions in limbs, back and stomach
  • Bloated stomach
  • Rapid but weak pulse
  • Dry and sunken eyes with few or no tears
  • Wrinkled skin; no elasticity
  • Breathing faster than normal

How to stay hydrated

It’s really important that older people are well aware of the signs and symptoms of dehydration. If any signs or symptoms of dehydration are present, it is best to start treatment as soon as possible and seek medical attention.

  • Be well aware of signs and symptoms of dehydration
  • Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water
  • Avoid alcohol or drinks with caffeine because of its diuretic effect
  • Use sports drink or electrolyte drinks to quickly replenish lost supply
  • Consume fluids on a regular basis
  • Consume fluids at routine events, such as before or after showering
  • Try to consume wet foods such as jelly and custard, as these add to the daily fluid volume
  • Remember your fluid intake: 100 mL fluid per kg body weight for first 10 kg, 50 mL fluid per kg body weight for next 10 kg, 15 mL fluid per kg body weight for each kg after 20 kg – so someone weighing 80kg will need to drink 2.4L of fluid a day

Have you ever been dehydrated? What happened?

  1. I drink when I’m thirsty and quite often I drink when I am not thirsty. If on the odd occasion I drink too much; I feel thirsty the next day. Thinking I must be dehydrated I drink again.

  2. Hav a great water cooler filtered thingy to keep the grandees from opening the fridge in the tropics….best thing ever….with just two oldies left at home now we top I up twice a day….been a great addition

  3. I don’t drink enough fluids at all, I’m running round all day and don’t think I really must bring up my fluids starting today

  4. I have three stainless steel water bottles which I fill and take with me during the day. When they’re empty I know I’ve had my quota. Helps keep me on track

  5. Strange this should come up today because yesterday was a wake up call to me. 4 hours went by in the Specialist’s waiting room,and with only two interruptions for a couple of tests,and a Third one to come,I was in FB heaven. When eventually I presented myself for the test to have a fluorescence dye injected through the vein in my hand,the doctor wouldn’t do it,because I was told I was dehydrated. I had to go and drink 6 cups of water from the machine and wait another while before I could get the injection! So it was a good warning what can happen while you just sit and get preoccupied. I look back and see that I had rushed off to a previous appointment in the morning with only a glass of Apple Cider vinegar and I had ignored the bit of a headache I was getting at the specialists rooms. So it was a good lesson to me that everything in this article is true and I’ll be more mindful in future.

  6. I have a blood clotting disorder so dehydration is the last thing I need. Thanks for the reminder. I’m sharing my bottled water with my dog now too as he seems to much prefer it to the chlorine flavoured stuff coming out of our taps the past few years.

  7. I drink very little of any fluid at all.
    I know it’s wrong but my body just doesn’t seem to need it. If I drink more than one or two glasses of fluid then my legs and ankles and hands swell as I retain fluid. So I have to take fluid tablets to get rid of it.
    My doc says thats okay as each person is different and their body will tell them when they need fluid.

    • Does not sound right to me! Our bodies are 60% water most of which is contained in our cells. Our cells need water to live. Perhaps your fluid retention is your cells screaming out for more water. I would get a second medical opinion!

  8. Living in the Tropics and spending most of each day outside, I drink from about 2 litres a day in the Dry (it’s cold and I don’t sweat much so forget to drink) to 6 to 8 litres a day in the Build Up and the Wet

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