Spotting the signs of dehydration and simple first steps …
What is dehydration?
Dehydration is when we don’t drink enough fluids to maintain a healthy balance in our body. Water makes up two thirds of our body. A healthy fluid balance is needed to help digestion, flush out waste and toxins and to keep the skin healthy. Most people get dehydrated by not drinking enough fluids or by losing fluids and not replacing them.
Who is at high risk?
You, or someone you care for, may be at risk of dehydration if you:
Are dependent on others for the provision of, or access to fluids
Have swallowing problems
Have a raised temperature
Have diarrhoea and/or vomiting
Have taken part in physical activities
Are in a very warm room or the weather is hot
Are limiting your drinks because you have difficulty getting to the toilet on time
Are limiting your drinks because you don’t want to get up through the night to go to the toilet.
Spotting signs of dehydration
Dry mouth / lips
Small amounts of urine
Urine is dark, cloudy or smelly
Painful to pee
What should you drink?
Aim to drink at least 6 – 8 cups or mugs per day
Any fluids eg milk, water, tea*, coffee*, fruit juice, except alcohol
Also eat foods that contain fluids such as jelly, ice-lollies, yoghurt, soup, fruit such as melons
Drink regularly through the day
Please note – Tea, coffee and some fizzy drinks contain caffeine which, if taken in large quantities, can contribute to dehydration. Try alternatives such as decaffeinated tea and coffee.
Dehydration can lead to:
Poor oral health
Urinary tract infection (UTI)
Dizziness leading to falls
What else can you do to help?
Empty bladder regularly throughout the day
Get up and move about frequently to stimulate the urge to go
Eat a well-balanced diet to prevent constipation
Reduce your caffeine intake
Ask for regular medication reviews.
What to do if you are concerned about someone else?
You can help prevent dehydration by:
Being aware of the early warning signs
Sitting down and having a drink or cup of tea together
Planning visits around mealtimes to understand if there are any difficulties with drinking
Having a look in the fridge or cupboards to check there are enough things to drink
Encouraging attendance at local cafes/ local lunches / visiting voluntary, community or faith organisations with luncheon clubs
Ensuring both hot and cold drinks are safely and freely accessible
Encouraging around 6-8 drinks per day
Be aware that other food such as jelly, soup, yoghurt, milk puddings, ice-lollies, and some fruits also contain fluid
Supporting access to both social and health services.
Who can help?
Worried about getting to the toilet on time?
Issues with a catheter or continence items?
Having difficulty using utensils or the kettle?
Having difficulty chewing or swallowing?
Your GP or community nurse can provide you with advice or information about preventing dehydration or can provide information on other services which might be able to help.