Strategies for Preventing Dehydration in Hospital Patients

Updated on August 28, 2023
Strategies for Preventing Dehydration in Hospital Patients

Dehydration is a problem that can quickly go from bad to worse. The risks include kidney disruption, low blood pressure, and in severe cases, death. Continue reading to learn about strategies for preventing dehydration in hospital patients.

Know the Signs of Dehydration

A patient may respond to dehydration in a variety of ways. Knowing these signs will help staff recognize when they need to intervene. Beyond thirstiness, signs of dehydration include:

  • Dark-colored urine
  • Lethargy
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Cracked lips
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dry skin
  • Mood changes
  • Incontinence
  • Lowered heart rate
  • Increased respiration

You should document the onset of any of these symptoms and reported them to other staff members.

Keep Accurate Records of Drink Consumption

The Francis Report of 2013 offered hundreds of recommendations to prevent neglectful care in hospitals. One recommendation suggested keeping accurate records of patient food and drink consumption. This is a valuable practice for preventing dehydration in hospital patients. It helps staff detect irregularities in a patient’s fluid intake much more quickly, even if they aren’t exhibiting the aforementioned symptoms.

Consider Patient Needs and Preferences

In some instances, patients go thirsty because they cannot or are unwilling to take water in the ways provided. For instance, if nurses give a patient a jug of water on a bedside table, but the patient is too exhausted or weak to pick it up, they are far more likely to go thirsty. Taking a few minutes to talk with a patient about their preferences can prevent this.

Hydration Therapy

In severe cases, patients may be unable to take fluids orally, or may be in such a serious state of dehydration that they need fluids in their system more quickly. In this case, you can utilize hydration therapy. This therapy involves administering electrolyte-filled fluids through an IV. This method may increase the need for facilities to rent more infusion pumps, but the speed at which the liquids are absorbed into the bloodstream makes it well worth it.