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Think You Are Immune to Dehydration?

By Mary Lou Harris August 01, 2022 Health and Fitness

I did. And I was wrong. Was my recent bout with dehydration because I wasn’t paying attention to my health, because I’m more vulnerable being a few years older? I don’t know. But I will share my experience for anyone who believes they are not vulnerable.

I would also recommend that readers take a moment to look at an article titled Staying Hydrated in the Summer Months by Julie Ambachew recently published on Sixty and Me. It would have been helpful to me to read it more carefully before my recent travels.

This summer, I made a trip to Hawaii. This was not unusual. With family living there, I tend to visit once a year or so. Generally, people who live in this environment are keenly aware of the dangers of dehydration. Whether heading to an air conditioned office or an outdoor work site, you will see everyone carrying their personal water bottle along with their briefcase or lunch box.

As a visitor, I have always been aware of this danger as well. In fact, most visits to Hawaii have included extensive physical training outdoors and running either a half marathon or a marathon each year. I have never experienced dehydration in any of those past visits.

So, Why This Visit and What Were My Symptoms for Dehydration?

The purpose of this visit was to lend a hand to busy young parents during the summer months. As a result, my time was spent differently. Was I drinking water frequently? Yes, but I was not as cognizant of my water intake as I generally am when I am training or racing on road or trail races.

The other ‘why’ for this visit may be that I am one year older than my last visit. One year should not make a difference, but I’m realizing that I must be more watchful of minute differences in my health in my eight decade than was needed in my 60s. I must keep that reality in mind.

As to the symptoms, I can tick several off Ambachew’s list in her article. 1) I certainly had intestinal issues, which was originally thought to be some sort of virus. 2) I became very tired, unusual for my highly energetic self, and 3) I realized my balance was a bit off.

When my family noticed that I had become pale, they wisely insisted on a visit to the emergency room where the symptoms initially pointed to something like diverticulitis. We were all surprised when test results came back with a diagnosis of dehydration.

What Could I Have Done to Avoid Dehydration?

First and foremost, I should stay more aware of my own health needs, particularly when I am traveling or doing a long-term stay away from home. In my case, I was so wrapped up in enjoying and caring for grandchildren that I overlooked some basic self-care. Even though I thought I was drinking an adequate amount and throwing in some Pedialyte and Gatorade in the mix, it wasn’t enough.

Second, I should have kept in mind that fluid needs may be different based on my location and activities. In my own home, I place on the counter a pitcher of water with a few lemon or cucumber slices. I make sure that pitcher is empty at the end of the day. I didn’t set up a similar system while staying with family.

Earlier on, I should have kept an eye on my weight, my sense of balance and any other changes in well-being that made me go “hmmm, what is going on?”

In closing, I had a wonderful summer stay helping out family during a very busy time for them. But my lack of awareness early on to the signs of dehydration diminished my enjoyment, and the enjoyment of my family, for the last few days of my stay.

Drink up!

How do you monitor your vulnerability to dehydration during warmer weather? Has your awareness of the potential for dehydration increased with age?

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Such a good reminder, thank you! I did nearly the same thing when I visited Tucson for the month of May. Being from Seattle, I am pretty cavalier about water intake and thought I was being aware of drinking more liquids, but it enough for that desert heat! This is a great reminder..

The Author

Mary Lou Harris is a proponent of active living, community volunteerism and inquisitive travel. After a post age 60 retirement from a career in public service, she expanded those interests to include ultra-trail running, hiking and extended-stay travel. She can be contacted through her website or on Twitter at @stillarunner.

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