What is Dehydration?
Dehydration is the excessive loss of body fluid from the body. Dehydration occurs when the amount of water leaving the body is greater than the amount being taken in. This can occur when vomiting, excessive sweating, diarrhea or not taking in sufficient liquids. Loss of water, critical salts. Potassium and sodium can spell disaster. Internal organs such as kidneys, heart and brain cannot function properly without the inclusion of water and blood salt in the body.
Signs and symptoms of Dehydration:
Symptoms may include severe headaches, muscle cramps, visual distortion, decrease in blood pressure, and dizziness or fainting when standing up.
If left untreated, Dehydration may cause delirium, unconsciousness, swelling of the tongue. People have even died from Dehydration.
Dehydration can be mild, and easily fixed, or severe needing hospitalization. With a mild case, in addition to extreme thirst, the person may not urinate, and when they do it is a very dark yellow or orange color. The person’s eyes and mouth feel like they are drying up and there is severe headache and dizziness when standing and inability to sleep. In moderate to severe Dehydration a person may not urinate at all. Other symptoms include lethargy or extreme sleepiness, seizures and sunken eyes.
The symptoms become more severe whenever there is greater water loss. Heart and respiration increase and body temperatures rise. There may not be sufficient water in the body to produce sweat.
What causes Dehydration?
Dehydration occurs when the amount of water leaving the body is greater than the amount being taken in.
- Diarrhea: Diarrhea is the most common reason for loss of fluids. A significant amount of water can be lost with each bowel movement.
- Vomiting: Vomiting causes fluid loss when a person cannot keep food and drink in their system.
- Sweating: The body loses significant amounts of by sweating. Whether the body is overheated because of work, intense exercising or because a fever is present due to an infection, the body uses a significant amount of water in the form of sweat to cool itself.
- Diabetes: People who are diabetic may experience elevated blood sugar levels. This can cause sugar or glucose to get into the urine and cause Dehydration. For this reason, frequent urination and excessive thirst are symptoms of Dehydration in diabetics.
- Inability to drink fluids: The inability to drink sufficient liquids can cause Dehydration. Lack of water or the lack of strength to drink adequate amounts can increase the degree of Dehydration.
What Products to Use for Dehydration
Kaolectrolyte or carbohydrate and electrolyte powder packets. These products incorporates the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for oral rehydrating solutions. They are available in small packets and will dissolve in water. It can be found in a few flavors.
Treatment for Dehydration
Mild Dehydration can be treated at home. Since Vomiting, Diarrhea, Fever and Heat Exhaustion are the main causes of Dehydration, you should take care to address these symptoms. The treatment for minor Dehydration which is most effective is drinking water and stopping fluid loss. Start by drinking an Oral Rehydration Solution, available over the counter, which will replace body salts and fluids lost in Dehydration. Sports drinks are not the same and can actually bring about vomiting and diarrhea since they are more concentrated and may hinder water absorption. Continue on a clear liquid diet if diarrhea, vomiting or fever is still present.
With moderate Dehydration, you may be able to take care of it yourself, but calling your doctor or nurse is advised. Young children and infants with even mild Dehydration should be taken to a doctor.
When Dehydration is severe, it is critical to rehydrate the body getting water and electrolytes into the system. Sometimes it is possible to give water and electrolytes slowly through the mouth, but is extreme cases intravenous treatment may be needed. If the person has fainted or is unconsciousness immediate medical help is neccessary. If you are unable to standing or thinking clearly, you need immediate emergency attention. Fluids containing a proper balance of replacement electrolytes are given orally or intravenously with continuing assessment of electrolyte status.
Prevention of Dehydration
Drink plenty of water. When you lose water and salt through sweat or diarrhea, more water is needed to avoid Dehydration. Your body cannot withstand large deficits of body fluids.
During normal day to day activities drinking water you are thirsty is sufficient to maintain hydration. However, during exercise, it is important to drink more water. If you sweat a lot in hot environments, drinking water is also important, even if sitting still. In hot or humid climates or during strenuous activity you should observe the color and frequency of your urine. You need to go to the bathroom at least every 3-5 hours and your urine should be only lightly colored. If so, Dehydration is not occurring. However, if your urine had a dark color or urination occurs only after many hours or not at all, water intake may not be sufficient to maintain proper hydration.
Drinking large amounts of water will not hurt you, since your kidneys will remove any excess water through the urine.
When to see a Doctor for Dehydration
If you’re severely dehydrated, go to the hospital right away. You could require Intravenous fluids (IVs) to reverse Dehydration. For young children and infants these measures are often life-saving.