Dehydration Guide – Causes, Symptoms, Treatments and it’s Serious Impact on Health

Reviewed by: | Author: Manoja Kalakanti

Come summer and our appetite goes for a toss. All we do is drink copious amounts of water and other liquids. But what if you stop drinking an adequate amount of water? Have you wondered how that will affect your body? Dehydration in adults or children is the very situation where the human body gets affected adversely due to the lack of fluids, especially when adequate amounts of fluids are not taken.

Dehydration causes, symptoms and treatments

There are a number of ways where the body feels deprived of hydration. We lose water from our bodies through a number of processes such as water vapor and other eliminatory systems of our body such as excretion, perspiration, and urination. So, you lose out on not only water but optimum amounts of salt as well. We start getting affected by signs of dehydration when our body loses a humongous amount of water, thus drying out, losing basic stability. Dehydration is serious stuff and if not taken care of at the very onset, can result in the loss of life.

Signs and Symptoms in Adults

We look for signs of thirst and then we drink water. But, thirst is not an early symptom. We may be severely dehydrated yet not feel thirsty. Elderly people don’t really feel the extreme thirst till they are already dehydrated. So, it is extremely necessary to keep on upping your water intake, especially when the weather conditions take on a warmer turn and when you get sick.Dehydration in summer can result in a wide number of critical problems such as seizures, thrombus and so on. Dehydration is also said to affect your mind and strength! It is a preventable condition if you happen to catch it in time. The signs and symptoms of dehydration are not as pronounced, and that is why it catches us unawares.

Thirst, as we have already said is not the primary indicator of dehydration. So, what are the other signs and symptoms of dehydration? Well, they vary with age. For an infant, the following signs are noticeable.

Signs of dehydration in Toddlers

  1. Dry mouth and/or tongue
  2. No diaper-wetting for at least 3 hours
  3. No tears while crying
  4. Eyes and cheeks sunken
  5. An indentation of the skull
  6. Irritability and lethargy

Signs of Dehydration in Adults

  • Severe thirst
  • Dark colored urine
  • Less urination
  • The feeling of extreme tiredness
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness

When does the symptom cross the threshold of being treatable at home to needing the immediate attention of a doctor? Take a look at some of the signs of severe dehydration and immediately take him/her to a doctor if necessary.

  • Suffering from diarrhea for 24 hours or more
  • Is sleeping way too much than normal and seems disoriented and also less active
  • Can’t drink an adequate amount of fluid
  • Experiencing bloody or black stools

Unusual Symptoms of Dehydration You Should Know About

You already know about the physical signs of dehydration and signs of chronic dehydration, but there are some unusual signs of dehydration you should be wary about. Here are some of the symptoms that you may not be so familiar with.

1. Foul Breath

Saliva is what keeps your breath fresh as it has anti-bacterial properties, but dehydration prevents the forming of saliva. So the bacteria growth proliferates in your mouth and thus results in a foul breath. Do you have bad breath now? If yes, then ask yourself when was the last time you had a sip of water was.

2. Dry Skin

You may have dry skin as a result of not drinking enough water for a certain stipulated period of time. Sweaty skin is good, but if you continue to sweat for a long time you may end up with dry skin. Your skin may look flushed as well as a result of not drinking enough water. When you pinch your skin and make a deep indentation on your face and it takes time to return to its normal appearance, you’ll know that you are dehydrated.

3. Muscle Cramps

Muscle cramps, have you experienced them before? They are also caused by dehydration. You may experience muscle cramps during the summertime, as when you get hot, the muscles get heated too, and they get affected due to this saturation of heat. Imbalance of sodium and potassium can lead to dehydration as well. Although there is a greater possibility of experiencing dehydration during the summer months, you may experience similar symptoms in the winter months as well, especially if you don’t keep yourself hydrated.

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4. Sweets Cravings

Craving for a sweet? Drink a glass of water first! When you are dehydrated, your liver finds it difficult to utilize water to release the glycogen and other stored resources, so you end up craving for food, particularly sweets.

Since your body finds it difficult to break down the glycogen to release into your blood-stream to use it to fuel up, you have a strong craving for something sweet such as chocolate cake or something sweet. It’s also not uncommon for the body to confuse the feeling of thirst with hunger, meaning that you may feel hungry when all you really need is water.

5. Headaches

Stop! Don’t reach out for a painkiller just yet, if you suffer from a splitting headache. Instead, reach out for a tall glass of water. Keep on sipping fluids throughout the day and you may finally be able to see the back of your headache. Dehydration is a contributing factor of most (not all) headaches.

Eliminates instances of headaches

Causes of Dehydration in Adults

Before we look at the complicated stuff, let’s get down at the basics. Just not drinking enough water for a long period of time because you are caught up in something or you don’t have the accessibility of good clean water because you are traveling can lead to dehydration. Now let’s explore some of the not-so-basic reasons,

  • Diarrhea and vomiting. Sudden onset of severe diarrhea that results in a loss of water and electrolytes in a short span of time. The conditions get severe when you also start vomiting and lose out on important minerals.
  • Fever is another cause. High fever can lead to severe dehydration. Just imagine the condition if you have the symptoms of all three of them; fever, diarrhea, and vomiting, it could simply not get worse.
  • Excessive sweating. If you are into some hard-core activity and forget about replenishing your body with adequate fluids with time, you are sure to get dehydrated. The weather also plays a role here increasing the amount of sweat and making your body lose more fluid.
  • A sudden increase in urination – There are several health conditions such as diabetes that lead to increased urination. There are certain medications too such as diuretics and particularly blood pressure medications that can cause increased urination, finally leading to dehydration.

Severe Dehydration in Adults – A Few Risk Factors

Most people have a chance of getting dehydrated, but some people get more dehydrated than others.

  • Infants and children. Young children and toddlers are the most vulnerable group here and can get severely dehydrated, especially when they suffer from a number of disorders such as diarrhea and vomiting. Young children are often unable to express their thirst nor are they able to get up and quench their thirst.

Reduces fevers and chills

  • Elderly people. As you become older you find it difficult to hold on to fluids and your thirst sense also reduces considerably. The problems increase when you suffer from a number of diseases such as diabetes and dementia, the problem magnifies when you have other additional problems. Older people also face mobility issues as they grow older and they also find it difficult to fetch water for themselves.
  • Chronic illnesses. Untreated diabetes or very high levels of sugar levels put you at greater risk of dehydration. Having an untreated kidney disease can also result in frequent trips to the bathroom.

  • People who exercise outside – While exercising outside is definitely a great way to beat gym boredom, it increases your chances of dehydration and other heat illnesses. The main reason for that would be that when the air is humid, the sweat stops your body from cooling down as fast as you would otherwise have. Your need for more fluid intake rises sharply.

The Impact of Dehydration – Leading to Complicated Health Disorders

If you thought dehydration is only going to make you super thirsty and all you have got to do is drink a copious amount of water, well I am afraid you are wrong! There are far greater complications that you need to be wary of.

  1. Heat injury. If you don’t drink enough fluids and yet work out vigorously and perspire heavily, things can get so complicated that you start having mild heat cramps to heat exhaustion and finally the deadly life-threatening heatstroke.
  2. Urinary and kidney problems. Repeated problems of dehydration are the chief cause of health conditions such as kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and even kidney failure.

  1. The importance of electrolytes in our body cannot be undermined. Minerals such as potassium and sodium help carry electrical signals from one cell to another. Even a slight disruption in the electrolyte balance can create hara-kiri in the sending of normal electrical messages and lead to involuntary muscle contractions and losing consciousness.
  2. Low blood volume shock is also known as hypovolemic shock. Beware of this life-threatening condition as it is an impact of dehydration. The low blood volume shows a drop in blood pressure and consequently, there is a drop in the oxygen in your body.

Best Treatment for Dehydration – Prevention is Better than Cure

Like every other health condition, prevention is always better than cure, and when the prevention is as easy as drinking a lot of fluids, this is a very avoidable condition. All you have really got to do is drink an adequate amount of fluids and nourish yourself with plenty of fruits and veggies that will keep your fluid level high in the body and of course, this is the best treatment for dehydration.

Being in tune with your body keeps you aware of your thirst signals and this should normally act as your parameter to drink water, at least for healthy people. You have to drink more of water when you notice the following symptoms. And many people think drinking tea and coffee is replenishing your need for drinking more water. But, the truth of the matter is that you must drink a glass of water to every cup of tea or coffee you have as caffeine is a diuretic. So, if you are someone who cannot do without his/her daily caffeine fixes, then it is time to drink more of water. Keep a tab on the following symptoms and drink more water.

  1. Vomiting or diarrhea. When you spot the early signs of dehydration in kids and toddlers, start administering oral rehydration solution. Just don’t wait for the symptoms to get worse.
  2. Overexercising – Keep a bottle or two of H2O right beside you when you exercise. So, how would you know whether you are drinking enough? Your urine output gives a clear indication that you are well-hydrated. Well-hydrated means clear urine, and when you do not drink enough water your urine turns yellow. So, while you exercise to make sure you keep drinking enough water during the entire span of exercise. This keeps you well hydrated.

  1. Weather Fluctuations. Weather fluctuations help lower your body temperature to adjust to the changing weather by sweating. This also raises the need to drink more water. People tend to stop drinking enough water during the winter months, but it is necessary to drink more water during the cold months to keep your hair and skin well-hydrated, especially in the mountainous
  2. People, especially elderly people suffer from a number of health problems such as bladder infections, influenza or bronchitis. It is important you need to drink as many cups of water if you possibly can to feel better.

Well, now you know, that a symptom as mild as foul breath can actually have some serious connotations. Dehydration is not something to be taken lightly, signs of moderate dehydration can suddenly flare up and lead to chronic illness. It may also be as a result of an underlying disease. Whatever it may be when you think that you no longer are able to control the symptoms despite feeding the patient with adequate amounts of fluids, take immediate action and take the patient to a doctor. It is better to be safe than sorry!

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