Home General health issues Dehydration: symptoms, causes and treatment

Dehydration: symptoms, causes and treatment


We lose water every day in the form of water vapor in the air we exhale and like water in sweat, urine and feces. Along with water, small amounts of salts are also lost.


When too much water is lost, the body can be out of balance or dehydrated. Severe dehydration can lead to death.


It can cause extreme thirst, lack of sweating, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, fever, delirium or unconsciousness.

Symptoms of dehydration

Mild to moderate dehydration can cause:

  • Dry and sticky mouth
  • Drowsiness or fatigue. Children tend to be less active than usual
  • Thirst
  • Decrease in urine output. Do not wet diapers for three hours for infants and eight hours or more without urinating for older children and teenagers
  • Few or no tears when she cries
  • Dry Skin
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

Severe dehydration, a medical emergency, can cause:

  • Extreme thirst (polydipsia)
  • Extreme irritability or drowsiness in infants and children, irritability and confusion in adults
  • Mouth, skin, and very dry mucous membranes
  • Lack of sweating
  • Little or no urine. Any amount of urine that occurs will be dark yellow or amber
  • Hollow eyes
  • Wrinkled and dry skin that lacks elasticity and does not “bounce” when pinched in a crease
  • In babies, sunken fontanelles – the soft spots on the top of a baby’s head
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardiac
  • Rapid breathing (tachypnea)
  • No tears come when she cries
  • Fever
  • In the most serious of cases, delirium or unconsciousness.

Unfortunately, thirst is not always a reliable indicator of the body’s need for water, especially in children and older adults. A better indicator is the color of the urine: clear or light colored urine means that it is well hydrated, while a dark yellow or amber color is usually a sign of dehydration.

If you are a healthy adult, you can usually treat mild to moderate dehydration by drinking more fluids, such as water or sports drinks.
Seek medical attention immediately if you develop signs and symptoms such as excessive thirst, lack of urine, wrinkled skin, dizziness and confusion.

Treat children and older adults more cautiously. Call your family doctor immediately if your loved one:

  • Develops severe diarrhea, with or without vomiting or fever
  • Has blood in the stool
  • Have had moderate diarrhea for three days or more
  • Can not hold liquids
  • Are irritable or disoriented and very sleepy or less active than normal

Any of the signs or symptoms of mild or moderate dehydration.
It can help prevent dehydration from becoming severe, by carefully controlling someone who is ill and by administering fluids, such as an oral rehydration solution at the first sign of diarrhea, vomiting or fever, and encouraging children to drink plenty of water before, during and after the exercise.


The most common causes of dehydration are severe diarrhea, vomiting, fever or excessive sweating.

 Not drinking enough water in hot weather or exercise can also cause dehydration. 


Risk factor’s

Anyone can become dehydrated, but young children, older adults and people with chronic diseases are at greater risk.

Risk factors of dehydration

Anyone can become dehydrated if they lose too much fluid. However, certain people are at greater risk, including:

  • Babies and children Babies and children are especially vulnerable because of their relatively small body weights and the high turnover of water and electrolytes. They are also the group most likely to experience diarrhea.
  • Older adults. As we get older, they become more susceptible to dehydration for several reasons: your body’s ability to conserve water is reduced, your sense of thirst becomes less acute and less able to respond to changes in temperature. What’s more, older adults, especially people in nursing homes or who live alone, tend to eat less of the younger people and can sometimes forget to eat or drink completely. Disability or negligence can also prevent you from being well fed. These problems are aggravated by chronic diseases such as diabetes, hormonal changes associated with menopause and the use of certain medications.

People with chronic diseases Having untreated diabetes or putting it at high risk of dehydration. However, other chronic diseases also make you more likely to become dehydrated. These include kidney diseases, alcoholism and disorders of the adrenal gland. Even having a cold or pain makes you more susceptible to dehydration because you are less likely to feel like eating or drinking when you are sick. Fever further increases dehydration.

Endurance athletes. Anyone who exercises can become dehydrated, especially in hot and humid conditions or at high altitudes. But athletes who train and participate in ultramarathons, triathlons, mountaineering expeditions and cycling tournaments are at particularly high risk. That’s because the longer you exercise, the harder it is to stay hydrated. During exercise, your body can lose more water that it can absorb. With each hour that you exercise, your fluid debt increases.

Dehydration is also accumulated over a period of days, which means that you can become dehydrated, even with a moderate exercise routine, if you do not drink enough to replace what you lose on a daily basis.

People who live at high altitudes. Living, working and exercising at high altitudes (usually defined as starting at 2,500 meters) can cause a series of health problems. One of them is dehydration, which normally occurs when the body tries to adapt to great heights through increased urination and faster breathing – the faster you breathe to maintain adequate levels of oxygen in the blood, the steam of water more than you exhale.

People who work or exercise outdoors in hot, humid weather. When it is hot and humid, the risk of dehydration and the increase of heat illnesses. That’s because when the air is humid, the sweat can not evaporate and cool as quickly as it normally does, and this can lead to an increase in body temperature.


It can lead to serious complications, including seizures, kidney failure, coma and death.


Dehydration can be diagnosed on the basis of physical signs and symptoms such as urinating with little or nothing, sunken eyes, etc.

Diagnosis of dehydration

Normally, the doctor can diagnose dehydration based on physical signs and symptoms such as urinating with little or nothing, sunken eyes and skin that lacks normal elasticity and resistance when pinched. If you are dehydrated, you are also prone to having low blood pressure, especially when going from a lie to a standing position, one faster than the normal rhythm of the heart and reducing blood flow to your extremities.

To help confirm the diagnosis and determine the degree of dehydration, you may be given other tests, such as:
Blood test. Blood samples can be used to check for a number of factors, such as electrolyte levels, especially sodium and potassium – and how well your kidneys are working.

Urine analysis. Tests done on urine can help show if you are dehydrated and to what degree.

If it is not obvious why you are dehydrated, your doctor may order additional tests to detect diabetes and liver or kidney problems.


Generally, you can reverse mild to moderate dehydration by drinking more fluids, but severe dehydration needs immediate medical treatment.


  • Control your fluid loss during hot weather, illness, or exercise, and drink enough fluids to replace what is lost.
  • Drink during exercise

To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of fluids and eat foods high in water such as fruits and vegetables. Letting thirst be your guide is an appropriate daily guideline for most healthy people. Liquids can be obtained not only from water, but also from other beverages and foods. But, if you are exercising, do not wait until you are thirsty to keep up with your fluids.

Under certain circumstances, you may have to drink more fluids than usual:
Disease. Begin to give more water or an oral rehydration solution at the first symptoms of the disease – do not wait until dehydration occurs. And although it may sound attractive, the traditional “clear liquids” such as ginger ale or other soft drinks contain too much sugar and sodium, very little to replace the lost electrolytes.

  • Exercise. In general, it is best to start hydrating the day before a strenuous exercise. The production of large amounts of clear, diluted urine is a good indication that you are well hydrated. Before exercising, drink 1 to 3 cups (0.24 to 0.70 liters) of water. During the activity, replenish liquids at regular intervals, and continue with drinking water or other liquids when you are finished. Keep in mind that heavy drinking can not only cause bloating and discomfort, but it can lead to a life-threatening condition in which the sodium in the blood is too low (hyponatremia). This happens when you drink more fluids than you lose through sweating.

Environment. You need to drink more water in hot or humid climates to help lower your body temperature and replace what is lost through sweat. You may also need more water when it is cold, if you sweat with insulating clothes. The hot air inside can cause your skin to lose moisture, increasing your daily fluid requirements. And altitudes above 2,500 meters can also affect the amount of water your body needs. If dehydration occurs when exercising in hot weather, enter a shaded area, recline, and start drinking water or a sports drink. Young athletes should be encouraged to let their coaches know if they have symptoms of dehydration.



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