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Dehydration takes place when your body loses more fluids than it ingests making it unable to execute its normal functions. Having enough water and healthy beverages in your survival food kit can be a lifesaver. In this post, we shall discuss the signs and symptoms of dehydration.

How can you tell if you are dehydrated?

Thirst can be the first sign of dehydration; but it’s not a reliable symptom. For instance, adults can become dehydrated without feeling thirsty. This is why you should drink sufficient amount of water throughout the day. Other indications of fluid loss include a decrease in urine production and unusually dark urine.

A change in urine color is one of the best dehydration signs. Clear urine indicates that you’re well hydrated.

But, dehydration signs and symptoms vary depending on age as seen below.

Free Bonus: I’ve included an infographic on the Signs of Dehydration at the bottom of the article. Feel free to download or share it – just please mention where it came from.

Dehydration symptoms in young kids and infants

The symptoms of dehydration include:

  • A dry mouth and tongue
  • Failure to wet their diapers within three hours
  • Lack of tears when they cry
  • Sunken cheeks and eyes
  • Irritability or listlessness

What are the symptoms of dehydration in adults?

They include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Less frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness

Signs of severe dehydration

How does dehydration affect the body? Severe dehydration can be defined as the loss of approximately 15% of the body’s water. The symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Sunken eyes
  • Lack of sweating
  • Dark shriveled skin
  • An increase in the heart rate or rapid heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Unconsciousness
  • Delirium

At what point should you call your doctor?

Contact your general practitioner or call 911 in a medical emergency if you or your loved one experiences the following symptoms dehydration:

  • Diarrhea for 24 or more hours
  • Is unable to keep any fluids down
  • Is irritable, overly sleepy, disoriented, and unusually inactive
  • Has black or blood-stained stool

What are the stages of dehydration?

Doctors classify dehydration in three stages. These are:

  • Mild
  • Moderate and
  • Severe

Balancing or reversing mild or moderate dehydration can be done by drinking fluids containing electrolytes, also known as salts. Prolonged dehydration adversely affects your health and can cause death.

Skin turgor definition

Skin turgor is the elasticity of skin. For instance, when you pinch the skin on your arm, it should return in place within one or two seconds. Decreased skin turgor means that your skin takes longer to return to its normal position. The skin turgor test is often used to determine the level of dehydration. Poor skin turgor can occur in severe or moderate fluid loss.

What causes dehydration?

The primary cause of dehydration is the failure to take sufficient water or other beverages and losing excess amounts of fluids. Various factors in today’s fast-paced world make it challenging to keep up with the 8 -glass rule. These include:

  • Being in an area that lacks clean drinking water
  • Being too occupied to drink much water
  • Lacking the strength or even the facilities to take much water
  • Being in hot weather

It can also be caused by:

  • Diarrhea

Diarrhea is an example of one of the most common causes of dehydration and, in severe cases, death. Usually, the large intestine absorbs water from food and diarrhea can inhibit this process. When you suffer from diarrhea your body causes you to lose water in excess amounts which causes increased dehydration.

  • Vomiting

Vomiting excessively leads to loss of fluids in the body and to continue replacing them can be a tough.

  • Diabetes

High levels of blood sugar trigger frequent urination which leads to excess loss of body fluids. Recurrent urination can also be caused by alcohol and medications such as antihistamines, diuretics, antipsychotics, and blood pressure medicine.

  • Sweating

Sweating is the body’s cooling technique where it discharges some amount of water. Engaging in intense physical activity can trigger excessive sweating which increases the amount of fluids your body loses. Suffering from fever can also increase sweat which can make you become dehydrated. This can be worse if you are vomiting and experiencing diarrhea at the same time.

  • Burns

Burns can cause damage to the blood vessels resulting in fluid leaks in the surrounding tissues.

Who’s more at risk of dehydration?

It can happen to anybody, but it’s important to note that some people are at a higher risk. They include:

  • People living in areas with high altitudes
  • People with chronic illnesses such as kidney disease, cystic fibrosis, adrenal gland disorders, and diabetes
  • Athletes who participate in endurance events such as cycling, triathlon, and marathon tournaments
  • Infants and children due to vomiting and diarrhea
  • Dehydration in older adults and the elderly is common and can be caused by failure to drink enough water in a bid to avoid frequent visits to the toilet at home.

Uncontrolled dehydration can cause severe complications such as:

  • Low blood volume

Insufficient blood in the body lowers blood pressure and reduces the amount of oxygen penetrating through tissues. This can be risky and should be controlled immediately to prevent a medical emergency.

  • Seizures

Seizures can occur due to electrolyte imbalance.

  • Heat injury

Prolonged exposure to extremely high temperatures can trigger various types of heat injury such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and mild cramps.

How to diagnose dehydration

To establish whether or not a patient is dehydrated, the doctor may need to perform a mental and physical examination. If they present the symptoms indicated above, the doctor may treat them for dehydration. Often, blood tests are conducted to check for kidney function, potassium, sodium, and levels of other electrolytes.

Video

Understanding electrolytes

Electrolytes are chemicals that control hydration in the human body. They are critical for muscle and nerve function. Doctors usually rely on urinalysis to determine dehydration. As we have seen above, dehydrated people will have overly concentrated and darker urine and high levels of ketones.

Diagnosing dehydration in infants is done through checking for a sunken soft spot on the skull. Doctors can also check for specific muscle tone.

Treating dehydration

What is the fastest way to cure dehydration? It can be treated by drinking water or any beverage that’s within room temperature.

What is the best thing to drink when you are dehydrated? Drink lots of clear fluids such as broths, water, sports drinks, and ice pops. Keep away from caffeinated beverages such as coffee, soda, or tea because they increase bladder activity which can dehydrate you.

Any underlying conditions that could be triggering dehydration, like with older adults, should also be treated using the correct medication depending on the doctor’s advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Some of these medications are available online and over the counter. They include anti-fever medications, anti-emetics that help control vomiting or diarrhea.

What should you do in the case of heat exposure?

Here are some tips to help you or your loved one cool down from heat exposure.

  • Loosen or remove excess clothing
  • Move to an air-conditioned area to regulate body temperature
  • In case air conditioning is unavailable, place the affected person outside under the shade or near a fan. You can also wrap a wet towel around the patient’s forehead.
  • Don’t expose the patient to extremely cold conditions such as ice water or ice packs. This can cause constriction and a decrease in blood vessels to worsen the symptoms of dehydration
  • Spray lukewarm water on the patient using a spray bottle

How to prevent diarrhea

Prevention is key when it comes to treating dehydration and eating foods and fruits with high water content and drinking lots of fluids will help prevent dehydration. You should also avoid engaging in strenuous activities during the hottest part of the day.

If you work out regularly or are an athlete, you should replenish fluids regularly. Remember, young children and older adults / elderly are at a higher risk of suffering from dehydration. You want to monitor them and ensure they get enough fluids.

How to take care of dehydrated patients

If you or your loved one is recovering from this, make sure they:

  • Take prescription medication as directed by the doctor
  • Attend hospital appointments as directed
  • Take lots of fluids to remain well hydrated and replenish lost fluids
  • Be on the lookout for signs of dehydration

How do dehydrated patients recover?

Once it is treated and any underlying causes determined, many people recover normally. Managing mild to moderate dehydration resulting from extreme exercise, heat exposure, or low water intake is easy. Still, the recovery process can slow down in severe cases, or when any underlying causes aren’t well managed.

What food is ideal for dehydrated people?

Many vegetables and fruits as we’ve seen above contain high water content. Some dairy products also come with a hydrating effect. Broths and soups are ideal for your health and keeping dehydration at bay. Whether you don’t like the taste of water or are looking for ways of staying hydrated, you should include water dense foods in your diet. Here are some of the top foods that can help with rehydration or keeping you hydrated.

  • Watermelon 

Watermelon is not only hydrating, but it’s also quite juicy. It contains up to 92% of water and is low on calories. This fruit is also delicious, will enhance your heart health, keep you hydrated, and reduce inflammation.

  • Celery

Celery is also known as a water-dense vegetable. It contains up to 95% of water and has fewer calories to help with weight loss. This vegetable not only boosts water retention in the body, but it also reduces inflammation. If you are looking for a healthy snack, celery is the way to go.

  • Cucumbers

95% of cucumber is water. These vegetables not only give you an ideal way of staying hydrated, but they also contain minerals and vitamins to keep your body nourished with essential nutrients. Did you know that cucumbers can boost your weight loss strategy and enhance bowel movements?

  • Blackberries 

88% of blackberry is made of water. These fruits are not only hydrating, but they are also fiber dense and rich in vitamins K and C.

  • Iceberg lettuce

Iceberg lettuce contains up to 96% of water making it a great candidate for keeping you hydrated. Many people love this vegetable due to its neutral and refreshing taste. You’ll also get a good share of vitamins and other nutrients from consuming iceberg lettuce.

  • Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese is commonly used by health and fitness enthusiasts across the world due to its filling properties. 80% of cottage cheese is water making it ideal for keeping your well hydrated. This product also nourishes your body with proteins and calcium.

  • Broths and soups

Broths and clear soups are good sources of various nutrients such as proteins and vitamins. Further, they also contain approximately 92% of water which is enough fluids to keep you hydrated. They can also help you in your weight loss journey.

  • Radishes

Radishes are crunchy and delicious vegetables that contain high water content. They also come with antifungal properties and can help boost healthy digestion. 95% percent of this vegetable is water and it can be a good salad topping or snack to help you stay hydrated.

  • Yogurt

Did you know that approximately 88% of yogurt is water? It’s also calcium and protein-dense. Opt for unflavored yogurt if you’re looking to achieve hydrating benefits while consuming low amounts of sugar. You can flavor your natural yogurt with fresh berries to make it the ideal energizing and hydrating snack which you can take after your workout.

Finally

While dehydration is a life-threatening condition, you can easily manage it by staying hydrated. Numerous foods and fruits can help you keep it at bay as we’ve seen above. If you don’t like the taste of water you can prepare drinking water infused with vegetables and fruits of your choice. Seek medical attention from someone who can provide medical advice diagnosis in case of severe dehydration related complications.

FAQ

How long can symptoms of dehydration last?

Often, you can reverse the signs of mild and moderate dehydration by increasing your fluid intake. In case of severe dehydration, however, seek immediate medical attention.

Can severe dehydration cause kidney failure?

Water helps flush out waste from your system in the form of urine. It also facilitates open blood vessels to enable nutrient-dense blood to penetrate to your kidneys with ease. So, you need to drink water. When dehydration occurs, the execution of this process becomes difficult. Mild dehydration not only inhibits normal body operations, but it can also cause excess fatigue. Severe dehydration can lead to kidney failure.

This is why you should be drinking fluids after strenuous exercises or if you live in overly humid or warm weather areas. Some studies suggest that prolonged exposure to dehydration may cause permanent kidney damage.

Dehydration causes the accumulation of acids and waste in the body. As a result, your kidneys get blocked by muscle proteins, also known as myoglobin. It’s worth mentioning that dehydration can cause urinary tract infections and trigger the formation of kidney stones.

If action is not taken to control the condition early enough, it can eventually cause kidney damage. When you’re well-hydrated, you’re unlikely to suffer kidney stones.

Can severe dehydration cause seizures?

Yes. Electrolytes such as sodium and potassium enhance transportation of electrical signals between cells. When electrolytes are imbalanced as a result of dehydration, normal electrical messages are likely to get mixed up. This can cause unintended muscle contractions and unconsciousness in severe cases.

Can severe dehydration cause stroke?

People who are well hydrated before suffering stroke have a high chance of recovering as opposed to dehydrated people. Research conducted on 168 ischemic stroke patients found that:

  • Approximately half of them were dehydrated by the time of their admission to the hospital.
  • The condition of the dehydrated patients was highly likely to get worse compared to the hydrated patients
  • The stroke condition was constant in approximately 42% of the dehydrated patients compared to 17% of hydrated patients.

Signs of Dehydration Infographic

Feel free to share or download the infographic below for your home or office!

signs of dehydration Infographic

More helpful reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dehydration

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