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Things you should know about dehydration

Dehydration happens as the body exits more water and fluids than it does enter. Also the low dehydration rates can cause headaches, lethargy and constipation.

The body of man is around 75 per cent water. Could not live without this bath. Water is found inside cells, within blood vessels, and between cells.

A sophisticated water control system keeps our water levels balanced, and when we need to maximize fluid intake our thirst mechanism informs us.

Though water is constantly lost throughout the day as we breathe, sweat, urinate, and defecate, drinking fluids can replenish the water in our body. When dehydration occurs, the body may also transfer water around to areas where it is most needed.

Most dehydration events may be easily reversed by increasing the intake of fluid, but serious cases of dehydration need urgent medical treatment.

Fast facts about dehydration

  • Around three-quarters of the human body is water.
  • The causes of dehydration include diarrhea, vomiting, and sweating.
  • Individuals more at risk of dehydration include athletes, people at higher altitudes, and older adults.
  • Early symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, lethargy, and dizziness.
Water drop  out
Dehydration is easy to remedy but can be serious if left unchecked.

The initial dehydration signs include fatigue, darker urine and reduced urine output. Urine color is also one of the best measures of a person’s level of hydration – clear urine indicates you’re well hydrated and darker urine indicates you’re dehydrated.

It’s important to remember, however, that dehydration can occur without thirst, particularly in older adults. That’s why it is important to drink more water when you’re sick, or when the weather is hotter.

As the condition progresses to moderate dehydration, symptoms include:

  • dry mouth
  • lethargy
  • weakness in muscles
  • headache
  • dizziness

Severe dehydration (loss of 10-15 percent of the water in the body) can be characterized by severe versions of the above symptoms and:

  • lack of sweating
  • sunken eyes
  • shriveled and dry skin
  • low blood pressure
  • increased heart rate
  • fever
  • delirium
  • unconsciousness

Symptoms in children

  • in babies – a sunken fontanel (soft spot on the top of the head)
  • dry tongue and mouth
  • irritable
  • no tears when crying
  • sunken cheeks and/or eyes
  • no wet diaper for 3 or more hours

Causes

The basic causes of dehydration are not to take in enough water, to lose too much water or to mix both.

Often it’s not possible to ingest enough fluids because we’re too busy, lack the facilities or the strength to drink, or are in an environment with no drinking water (for example, while hiking or camping). Other causes of dehydration include:

Diarrhea – the primary cause of dehydration and associated deaths. The large intestine collects water from food matter, and this is avoided by diarrhoea. The body excretes too much water which results in dehydration.

Vomiting – leads to a loss of fluids which makes drinking water impossible to substitute.

Sweating -the cooling process of the body releases a large amount of water. Hot, humid weather, and intense physical activity will further increase sweating fluid loss. Similarly, a fever may cause an increase in sweating which can dehydrate the patient, particularly if diarrhea which vomiting are also present.

Diabetes -elevated levels of blood sugar cause excessive urination and loss of fluid.

Frequent urination – usually caused by uncontrolled diabetes, but may also be attributed to alcohol and drugs such as diuretics, antihistamines, medicines for blood pressure, and antipsychotics.

Burns – Blood vessels can get damaged, causing the fluid to leak into the tissues around them.

Risk factors

While anyone may experience dehydration, some people are at a greater risk. Those at highest risk include:

An old adult drinking water with his daughter
Older adults commonly become dehydrated
  • People at higher altitudes.
  • Athletes, especially those in endurance events, such as marathons, triathlons, and cycling tournaments.
  • People with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, kidney disease, cystic fibrosis, alcoholism, and adrenal gland disorders.
  • Infants and children – most commonly due to diarrhea and vomiting.

Dehydration is often normal in older adults; this also occurs because they drink less water and they don’t need to get up for the toilet as much as possible. There are also brain shifts that mean thirst isn’t always there.

Complications

If dehydration is not tested, it can lead to serious complications; this can include: low blood volume-less blood causes a decrease in blood pressure and a reduction in the amount of oxygen entering tissues; this can be life-threatening.

Seizures – due to an electrolyte imbalance.

Kidney complications – include kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and eventually kidney failure.

Heat damage – from minor cramps to fatigue from heat or even heat stroke.

Diagnosis

A doctor can treat dehydration using both physical and mental tests. A patient with symptoms such as disorientation, low blood pressure, rapid pulse, fever, lack of sweat, and dehydrated skin may typically be treated.

Blood testing is also used to monitor kidney function and to evaluate levels of sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes. Electrolytes are chemicals that control body hydration and are essential to the functioning of the nerves and muscles. An examination of the urine can provide some very valuable details to help diagnose dehydration. Urine would be darker in colour and more concentrated in a dehydrated individual-containing a certain amount of compounds called ketones.

Doctors typically look for a sunken, vulnerable spot on the skull to diagnose dehydration in children. We can also look for a lack of sweat and characteristics of some muscle tone.

Treatments

Dehydration should be treated by replenishing the amount of fluid inside the body. Clear beverages such as tea, liquid broths, frozen water or ice pops, or sports drinks (such as Gatorade) can be used to do so. However some patients with dehydration may require intravenous fluids to rehydrate. People who are dehydrated should avoid caffeine-containing beverages like coffee, tea, and sodas.

Conditions underlying that induce dehydration should also be treated with the correct medication. These could include medications available for purchase over – the-counter or online, such as anti-diarrhea medications, antiemetics (stop vomiting), and anti-fever drugs.

Prevention

Prevention is actually the most significant dehydration treatment. Eating plenty of high water content fluids and foods (such as fruits and vegetables) will suffice for most people to avoid dehydration.

People should be careful about performing workouts during excessive heat or the hottest part of the day and anyone who exercises should make it a priority to replenish fluids.

Since the elderly and very young are at greatest risk of being dehydrated, they should be given special attention to ensure they receive enough fluids.

Video: Signs of dehydration – how to prevent it

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