Parish Nursing: Summertime Considerations

DEHYDRATION

It is very easy to become dehydrated without realizing it. This can occur when you lose more water via sweat and urine than you take in. Able to occur at any age, it is especially dangerous in very young children and in older adults. A lack of sufficient fluid in the body can cause confusion and put a person at risk for falls. When severe, dehydration can lead to a rapid or irregular heart rate, low blood pressure, fainting and even death. If the body doesn’t have enough water, every system in the body can be affected.

Staying well hydrated becomes difficult with age because the sense of thirst diminishes. People get too busy or too distracted to remind themselves to drink and the older adult does not immediately react with thirst. Medications such as diuretics make the problem worse. Infections causing diarrhea, vomiting, and fever can contribute to dehydration. (If you are vomiting repeatedly or have a fever of more than 101 degrees for more than a day or diarrhea more than 2 days, call your doctor.)  Certain health conditions such as poorly controlled diabetes and obesity can cause excessive water loss.

SIGNS OF DEHYDRATION:  Dry mouth, fatigue, thirst (can be a late problem), skin that doesn’t spring back quickly when pinched, confusion, or dark urine (usually the color of straw). The darker the urine, the more dehydrated a person might be although certain medications, fruits, or vegetables can also affect the color.  If a person has any of these symptoms, he should try drinking two or three full glasses of water during the next 1-2 hours and see if the symptoms dissipate.  If the symptoms of dehydration continue or he doesn’t urinate his normal amount within 4 hours, a doctor should be called.

HOW TO PREVENT DEHYDRATION:  Drink before feeling parched. By the time thirst is felt, dehydration might have already occurred. A person should sip small amounts all throughout the day. If a full glass of water cannot be drunk all at once, a little bit at a time should be drunk frequently. Carrying a water bottle at all times can help remind one to drink. Other people might fill pitchers to equal 8-10 glasses of water at the beginning of the day and make certain to have finished it all by the end of the day.  All beverages (other than alcoholic drinks) will hydrate.  Coffee and tea are mild diuretics which might hydrate a little but they cause one to urinate more. Soups, fruits and vegetables such as cucumbers are good sources of liquid.

HERE IS A NOTE OF CAUTION:  In some health conditions such as kidney disease or congestive heart failure, it may be dangerous to take in too much fluid. The advice of a doctor on fluid intake should be followed.

TICKS

Because of climate change these disease-spreading bugs are thriving and spreading to areas never before reported. The number of people reporting tick bites has increased by 320% since the later 1990s.  Most tick related diseases are bacterial, so if the infection is caught early, antibiotic treatment is usually effective.  Most serious problems arise when people don’t realize they’ve been infected and the bacteria have a chance to spread throughout the body, including the nervous system. Lyme disease is notorious in this respect. Up to 20 percent of patients continue to experience symptoms such as severe headaches, joint pain, facial palsy, heart palpitations and neurological issues, long after the course of antibiotics has ended.  Lyme disease is almost never fatal, but other tick-borne diseases can be, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Some tick-borne diseases are viral and cannot be treated with antibiotics.

HOW TO PREVENT:  People need to be careful in high risk areas such as the woods or tall grass. Wear bug repellent and cover up as much skin as possible. Search for and remove ticks after spending time outside. Also check your pets. If you have a red rash (only a small percentage of people actually get the tell-tale bullseye rash) and suspect a tick bite, get help to obtain antibiotics immediately.

“…Present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”   Romans 12:1

 

SAVE THESE DATES!

Saturday, September 15, 10am-Noon   FALL PREVENTION WORKSHOP:  Information and exercises. Taught by Virginia McDonagh, PT,DPT, this important class will teach you how to prevent falling and you will learn exercises to improve your balance. As you know, falling is the worst thing an older person can do.

Saturday, October 13, 8am-5pm  MENTAL HEALTH FIRST AID TRAINING:  This training, valued at $170/person by Mental Health First Aid USA, is being offered at no cost, including manuals. The 8-hour training introduces participants to common risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems and specific illnesses like anxiety, depression, substance use disorders, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Participants will learn a five-step action plan to support someone developing a mental illness or mental crisis. The class is limited to 30 participants.

~ Marilyn Fleming, RN, MSN, for the Parish Nurses

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