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“Hydration, Hydration, Hydration!”

Fire hydrant

Byline: Laura Michael (Dysphagia Supplies Direct, LLC;

[Editor’s note: Please share this article with your patients, family, and friends who may be at danger of dehydration as we enter the hot summer months.]

Water is an essential element for sustaining life. The human body is composed of more than 60% water. Without water, we won’t survive for more than a few days. For those with a swallowing disorder, staying properly hydrated creates its own unique challenges.

Summer’s warm temperatures and increased humidity can cause dehydration more quickly than during other seasons. No matter what time of year, it is important to stay properly hydrated!

10 Warning Signs of Dehydration:

1. Thirst. If you are feeling thirsty, you are already dehydrated!

2. Dry Mouth. Some medications can add to the sense of dry mouth, reduce saliva production and exacerbate the problem.

3. Fatigue. If you feel tired after activity or in the afternoon, you may be dehydrated.

4. Dizziness. Feeling light-headed or having vertigo is signs of moderate dehydration.

5. Depression or Irritability. If you are feeling a case of the blues or find yourself snapping at people for no reason, you may be dehydrated. Dehydration can cause unwanted behaviors in people with Dementia.

6. Dark or Cloudy Urine. If your urine isn’t clear, you are dehydrated. The darker the color of your urine, the more severe your dehydration.

7. Difficulty going to the bathroom. Constipation is a common symptom of chronic dehydration.

8. Changes in Skin. Flushed, or slightly red, skin is symptom of acute dehydration. Dry skin can be a symptom of chronic dehydration.

9. Nausea. Often, if you feel nauseated, you won’t feel like drinking anything. BUT it is necessary for treating and preventing dehydration. If you feel nauseated, take small sips of cool, not cold, water.

10. Rapid Breathing. Rapid breathing is a sign of severe dehydration and is often accompanied by a rapid heartbeat. If you are experiencing rapid breathing and an increased heartbeat, seek medical attention.

If you experience any of the warning signs,

drink sips of cool water to avoid nausea and vomiting.

When you have trouble taking foods and liquids by mouth, it can be especially challenging to get enough hydration. People who must consume thickened liquids are often put-off by the flavor and texture of older, starch-based thickeners. New xanthan gum-based food thickeners like ThickenUp® Clear taste better, mix easily and don’t continue to thicken on standing.

Convenience is another important factor in getting enough to drink. It is easier to just “grab and go” water, juices and other beverages that have been thickened in bulk and are kept readily available in the refrigerator. Commercially prepared pre-thickened beverages provide a consistent supply of thickened liquids but can be a bit more expensive than thickening liquids at home.

Individuals who have limited mobility and who have Dysphagia are at high risk for dehydration because they must depend on others to meet their need for liquids. Keeping cool thickened beverages within “arms-reach” is essential but can be a challenge. One solution is to make ice cubes with water that has been thickened to the proper consistency with a xanthan gum thickener like ThickenUp® Clear and then using the ice cubes in drinks in kept within easy reach. You cannot make ice cubes with starch-based thickeners because they break-down into particles as they melt, causing an unsafe texture.

Consuming thickened liquids often doesn’t provide the sense of oral satisfaction you get from a thin liquid. The mouth often still feels dry and pasty. One way to address dry mouth is to mist the oral cavity with cold water using a spray bottle. It is recommended to use sterile water in a food-safe plastic bottle, and change the water frequently. If you are on thickened liquids, it is VERY IMPORTANT to spray only enough to relieve dry mouth and not enough to create a “full swallow”. It is also essential that you practice good oral hygiene if you mist the mouth on a regular basis.

Eating foods like soups, pureed fruits, yogurt, pudding and other foods that have a high liquid content can also combat dehydration.  Another way to get an even more refreshing hydration is to enjoy popsicles made from fruit juices, sweetened drinks or products like Gatorade® or Pedialyte® that have been thickened to the proper consistency with ThickenUp® Clear. Popsicle molds are inexpensive and are available at stores like Target and Wal-Mart.

Dehydration can be exacerbated by the use of diuretics, laxatives, antidepressants, certain antibiotics online without prescription and other medications. Please consult your Pharmacist about your specific medications if you have questions or concerns.

Dehydration can be very serious. Severe dehydration can lead to hospitalization. The key to preventing dehydration is simple: avoid it. Be aware of what you are drinking and consume more liquids!