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Winter Home Care Tips: are seniors at a higher risk of dehydration also in the wintertime?

By Peter DiMaria

Most people believe that dehydration is a problem that develops only in hot temperatures, during the summer. However, the cold weather in the winter also can drain moisture from our bodies quickly, leading to dehydration.

According to the University of New Hampshire, in the cold temperatures we tend not to feel thirsty. Therefore, we don't drink as much liquid. We lose a great deal of water from our bodies in the winter through breathing. Our bodies also work harder under the weight of extra clothing, and sweat evaporates quickly in cold, dry air. Finally, heated indoors environments, like our houses in the winter, are usually very dry and tend to dry our bodies too.

That means we drink less water but still lose a lot. The result? Dehydration.

When caring for a loved one, family caregivers should pay attention to their intake of water.

Water is important not only because it prevents dehydration, but also because it reduces stress on the kidneys and helps maintain regular bowel functions.

An adequate amount of daily water intake is by far the most important of all the dietary requirements for the body and is essential to life. A person may live for several weeks without food, but can only survive for a few days without water. That is because our bodies are 55% to 75% water, and we lose about 10 cups of water each day through sweating, going to the bathroom, and breathing.

Some people need more water

Increased fluid intake is required for those who:

  • Usually experience heavy sweating/perspiration;
  • Use some prescription drugs like tranquilizers, anti-convulsants, or some behavioral health medications;
  • Experience heavy drooling;
  • Suffer from Urinary Tract Infections (kidney and bladder).

When is someone dehydrated?

The signs and symptoms are:

  • Dry mouth, dry skin, especially around mouth/lips and mucous membranes;
  • Less skin flexibility/elasticity;
  • Decreased urination, with dark, concentrated urine;
  • less/absent sweating;

Useful tips

To encourage your loved one to drink fluids:

  • Have water within reach and encourage intake;
  • Use other fluids as well, such as shakes, fruit drinks, soups, puddings, and gelatins;



  • Avoid caffeine and sugar in fluids, if possible, since caffeine and sugar will stimulate the body to dehydrate; if your loved one drinks a lot of coffee, cola (even diet cola), and other similar liquids, you need to drink more water than the average person.

Home Care Tip: Establish a daily goal

Here is one tip to make sure your loved one and his caregiver remember to hydrate adequately. Establish a daily water drinking goal.  The common sense is that everyone should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. Most doctors suggest even a bit more, including other beverages like juice or tea in the total intake quantity.

With the goal established, use a good 1 liter reusable water bottle… or maybe two bottles. Fill it up before you head out for the day and plan on filling it again at lunchtime.  On average, women should aim at a 2 quarts intake every day and men should be drinking 3 quarts.  Keep the bottles always next to your loved one, so he or she will remember to drink often and meet the goal. Of course, keep those reusable water bottles clean.

People who are prescribed diuretic drugs (also known as "water pills") sometimes do not like to drink water. They feel that drinking liquids makes them have to go to the restroom more times. However, not drinking enough fluids will send a feedback message to their organism, which will make the body retain fluids. This could aggravate the condition which is being treated. Diuretics are often used to treat cardiovascular problems.