The Facts on Dehydration
Dehydration happens when the body loses more water than it intakes liquids. Excessive sweating, diarrheal, vomiting or not drinking enough can cause dehydration, decreasing the body’s levels of fluid, important salts and potassium. Severe dehydration can even lead to the heart, brain and kidneys not functioning properly.
Signs of Dehydration
Muscle cramps, severe headaches, visual distortion, unusual drop in blood pressure and fainting or light-headedness from standing up quickly are all possible symptoms of dehydration. If it becomes more severe, dehydration can cause delirium, unconsciousness or the tongue to swell. It is possible to die from severe dehydration.
The symptoms of a mild case of dehydration are often increased thirst while decrease of the need to urinate, dark urine, fatigue, irritability, dry eyes, headaches, dry mouth, dizziness from standing quickly and insomnia.
Moderate to extreme dehydration causes the halting of urination which can be accompanied by exhaustion or extreme lethargy, sunken eyes and seizures.
The greater the water loss, the worse the level of dehydration will get. Heartbeat and breath increase and body temperature rises. The body may not be able to produce sweat.
Causes of Dehydration
Diarrhea: the most common cause of dehydration, it causes the levels of bodily fluids to drop quickly with each bowel movement.
Vomiting: loss of body fluids is caused when a person does not keep anything down, food or drink.
Sweating: the body produces sweat to bring its temperature down, so when the body’s temperature rises by intense physical work, a high fever caused by infection or heat exhaustion, a considerable amount of water is used to sweat.
Diabetes: high blood sugar levels can cause sugar in the urine, creating significant dehydration. Diabetics need to watch out for excessive thirst and frequent urination.
Inability to drink enough liquids: when liquids are unavailable, a shortage of water or a decrease in strength to drink water can increase the level of dehydration.
Kaolectrolyte or carbohydrate and electrolyte power packets respect the criteria of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (APP) for oral rehydrating solutions. The powder contained in small packets dissolve in water and can be found in different flavors.
Mild dehydration caused by vomiting, diarrhea, fever or heat exhaustion can be treated easily. The loss of fluids must be stopped by increasing water intake. Oral rehydration solutions bought over the counter will replace body salts and water lost. Sports drinks may help but in some cases deter water absorption by the body when vomiting and diarrhea depending on the concentration of sugar and salts they contain. A clear liquid diet is suggested in cases of vomiting, diarrhea or fever until they clear up. Children and infants suffering from a mild case of dehydration should be seen by a doctor no matter what.
You can treat your moderate case of dehydration yourself but we advise you to talk to a doctor or nurse anyway.
Severe dehydration will be treated by replenishing critical fluids and electrolytes through oral rehydration therapy or intravenous treatments. When the dehydration is severe enough to cause fainting, unconsciousness or other serious inhibiting symptoms such as lack of strength to stand up or to think clearly, seek immediate medical attention.
How to Prevent Dehydration
If you sweat profusely or suffer from diarrhea, drink luiquids to avoid dehydration, as your body cannot adapt to a rapid decrease in fluids.
During a normal day, just drinking when you feel the need is plenty to maintain hydration. It is imperative to drink enough water during exercise. If you sweat in hot environments, even if standing still, you need to drink more water than usual. You also need to drink more during strenuous activity. Your main clue will be a change in color or increased rate of your urine.
If your urine is only lightly colored and you urinate every 3 to 5 hours, you’re fine. However, if urination only occurs after a few hours or your urine is a dark color, your intake of water is insufficient to maintain a healthy level of hydration. You’re getting dehydrated.
Drink plenty of water, as your kidneys’ job is to remove excess water through urination anyway: better drink a bit too much water than not enough.
When to Seek Medical Help
If you suffer from severe dehydration, go to the emergency center nearest you. You may need intravenous treatments to replenish your fluid levels. For young children and infants, immediate medical help often saves their lives.