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How can you tell you are Dehydrated?

Last updated date: 25-Feb-2022

CloudHospital

14 mins read

Dehydration represents the moment when the quantity of fluid that your body loses is greater than the quantity of fluid that you take in. This imbalance can seriously harm your health as the body needs water in order to maintain its normal functions.

Along with air and food, water is one of the essential factors that keep the human body alive. Beside the importance of water consumption, the human adult body consists of up to 60% water. The percentage of water in kids is considerably higher in their first year of living than the percentage of water from a male adult. Women are less waterish than men. Moreover, the more muscular tissue a person has, the more water its body contains. The fatty tissues are quite the contrary. So, if one person has more fatty tissue, the less water percentage in its body results.

Studies show, that both the heart and the brain are 73% made of water, while the lungs consist of 83% water. The kidneys and the muscles, generally, are also composed of 79% water. The composition of bones contains water, as well. 31% of the bones is made of water.

In order to survive, humans need to consume water daily. Depending on age and gender, the needed daily quantity of water could vary from an individual to another. Normally, an adult male is required to take in around 3 liters of water daily, while an adult female needs to consume about 2.2 liters of water each day.

Several essential functions of the body are fueled up by the water, as it follows:

  • Water is the most important nutrient for each cell and it is vital in the process of cell creation;
  • Water also maintains the temperature of the body through sweating and respiration;
  • The water transports to the bloodstream the carbohydrates and proteins, that human bodies take in from food;
  • Water is crucial for eliminating the waste through urine;
  • Water can also play the role of a shock absorber for the brain, spinal cord or even for the fetus, as it represents a major part of the shock absorber fluid;
  • Water lubricates the joints, as well.

As you can see, water is truly essential for keeping your body alive. Unfortunately, there could be lots of situations in which you could get dehydrated. Depending on the severity of the environment’s condition and the period of time in which you are not consuming any water, in any form, dehydration could be deadly.

 

Causes of dehydration

Any person could become dehydrated at times, but the condition could be truly harmful to the very young children and the elderly.

Dehydration is a condition that could affect absolutely anybody. The age or gender are no boundaries for dehydration, as water has the very same effects on all of us. We could actually affirm that water is our fuel. 

The causes of dehydration could be related to environmental factors or health conditions.

The environmental causes could be the hot weather and performing intense physical activity under the hot sun. In these moments, your body consumes a lot of water, in order to maintain its temperature and to keep all of its functions going. If you are not consuming enough water in these situations, you might start to get dehydrated, as the body uses its water resources to maintain the normal pace of the organs’ activity.

The other health conditions that could lead to dehydration are represented by infections or even other minor illnesses that affect the rhythm of the organs. 

The dehydration symptoms for toddlers usually occur due to severe diarrhea and vomiting. When kids suffer of one of this two conditions, they lose high quantities of water.

The dehydration symptoms in elderly could be stimulated by any condition. The bodies of the elderly already have lower percentages of water in their composition. This could be translated as very low resources of water. In this case it might be easy to start suffering of an episode of dehydration, as any infection that affects the bladder, the kidneys or the lungs could lead to dehydration of the elderly. 

The general causes of dehydration, are as it follows:

  • Illness. Dehydration occurs on the account of an illness, such as gastroenteritis. Due to bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, the body loses too much fluid.
  • Sweating. You can actually become dehydrated if you sweat overmuch. This could happen during a fever, exercising or working in a hot environment. If you are not drinking up enough water in these conditions, your body surely loses it. It is highly recommended to drink water frequently, in order to avoid becoming dehydrated. The babies and children are at risk of becoming dehydrated due to sweating, as they do not recognize the need of drinking water, yet. Even if they do so, they might not be able to communicate to you this need. Therefore, it is very important to persuade the sweating children to drink water from time to time, at least.
  • Beverages. Despite their fluid shape, several beverages are rather dehydrating your body after drinking them. This category of beverages contains the alcoholic drinks, tea and coffee. The alcohol is generally considered a diuretic. This means that it stimulates your body eliminate the toxins through urinating. More urinating translates into less water resources. Moreover, the headache of a hangover actually represents the fact that your body is low on water. If you consume any of these afore mentioned beverages, make sure that you are also drinking lots of water before and after.
  • Diabetes. This health condition is considered to be a major risk of dehydration, as the bloodstream contains high levels of glucose, which the kidneys will strongly try to eliminate through urinating. This could lead to low reserves of water in your body. If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, make sure that you drink enough water to cover your body’s needs.
  • Medical treatments. All of the diuretic medications, which are usually prescribed to treat heart problems and high blood pressure, could significantly increase your risk of becoming dehydrated.

 

Dehydration symptoms

In order to determine one’s level of dehydration, the condition has been divided on 3 stages, that are able to represent the gravity of the suffering patients. 

The stages of dehydration are, as it follows:

  • Mild;
  • Moderate;
  • Severe.

 

If are suffering of an episode of dehydration, is normal that you will encounter symptoms as:

  • Dry mouth or dry cough;
  • Fatigue;
  • Headache;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • High heart rate and low blood pressure;
  • Constipation;
  • Dark-colored urine;
  • Dizziness;
  • Weakness;
  • Confusion or even delirium;
  • Muscle cramps;
  • Flushed skin;
  • Intolerance to heat or chills.

Depending on the severity of your dehydration episode, your symptoms might vary. It is not necessarily for you to notice of all of the above-mentioned symptoms to find out that you are dehydrated. 

Normally, during a mild episode of dehydration, you will just notice that your mouth has become dry and that is getting drier and drier with each passing minute in which you are not drinking water.

But as the level of dehydration increases, the symptoms start to become more and more serious. Therefore, after some good hours of dehydration, you could even get to suffer of confusion or delirium.

 

Dehydration symptoms in pregnancy

Dehydration is a condition that represents the fact that your body consumes more water than it takes in. When you are not drinking water, your body starts to consume the water that already exists in it. The more of this water the body consumes, the more severe the dehydration could become.

As the body requires water to maintain at a normal rhythm all of its functions, during pregnancy, new functions start to exist. Therefore, in this period, your body needs more than ever to have water supplies. For example, the water is essential in the process of forming the placenta and the amniotic sac. The placenta has the purpose of transmitting all the nutrients to the baby, while the amniotic sac has a protective function.

During pregnancy, the main causes of dehydration are usually represented by:

  • Intense physical activity, especially if it is performed in a hot environment;
  • Fever;
  • Sweating;
  • Morning sickness;
  • Vomiting;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Not intaking enough water.

The pregnancy could seem at moments as painful and difficult to bear with. You could start to notice different symptoms. It is important to correctly identify these symptoms and to associate them with their cause. Dehydration could be very harmful. Therefore, it is important to notice the symptoms associated to it:

  • Dry mouth and tongue;
  • Headache;
  • Fatigue
  • Continuously feeling thirsty;
  • Overheating;
  • No sign of needing to urinate in hours;
  • Dark colored urine;
  • Constipation;
  • Dizziness.

These are the usual symptoms, as they are associated to mild and moderate dehydration. Any type of dehydration, especially during pregnancy, requires immediate treatment.

In case that your dehydration reaches to the severe stage, you might encounter more serious symptoms, such as:

  • Extreme thirst;
  • Extremely dry mouth, tongue, skin and mucous membranes;
  • Irritability; 
  • Confusion;
  • Delirium;
  • No urine;
  • Seriously dark colored urine (in case you manage to urinate from time to time);
  • Sunken eyes and cheeks;
  • Fast heart beating;
  • Low blood pressure.

 

During a bout of severe dehydration, your skin might get considerably dry and loose most of its elasticity. Red lesions might occur.

Dehydration is a high risk generally, as it could become even deadly. But during pregnancy, dehydration could lead to complications, such as:

  • Defects of the neural tube;
  • Low levels of amniotic fluid;
  • Premature birth;
  • Birth defects;
  • Poor production of breast milk.

Also, dehydration during pregnancy could stimulate the appearance of the Braxton-Hicks contractions. These contractions are supposed to occur in the third semester of the pregnancy, but they can also occur, from time to time, starting with the second trimester. Their abundant existence could signify a lack of hydration.

Even though the mild and moderate dehydration could be treated at home with water and rehydration solution, the severe dehydration requires immediate medical attention.

Dehydration can be prevented. You should drink water frequently during the day. If you do so, you will manage to keep hydrated and to avoid the risks of not having enough water in your body. It is thought that the minimum quantity of water that a pregnant woman should take in daily is between 2 to 3 liters.

If you are experiencing the morning sickness and you are vomiting, drink as much water as you can during the moments in which you are not feeling the nausea.

If there is an indigestion that interferes with your health, you can also try to consume the water between the meals, instead of drinking water while eating.

Avoid consuming diuretics, such as coffee, tea or alcohol, as these will push your kidneys to eliminate the waste through urinating. If you feel like substituting water with something else from time to time, you could drink a cup of milk, a cup of a fresh juice or you can also eat some soup.

Moreover, in order to avoid the dehydration, you should avoid becoming overheated, as it could lead to extreme sweating and massive losses of water supplies.

 

Dehydration symptoms in kids

Normally, in their first year of living, babies are about 78% water. After their first year, the percentage of water from their bodies drops to about 65%.

Daily, children have the highest risk of getting dehydrated, as they are continuously physically active. But there are also other circumstances in which the children could get dehydrated:

  • Bouts of vomiting or diarrhea;
  • Bouts of fever;
  • They genuinely not consume enough water, especially when they are suffering from another illness;
  • Being exposed to hot weather or high temperatures


One of the main disadvantages that children have, in terms of hydration, is that they are not able to recognize the need of drinking water until they are a little bit older. Even if they do recognize this need that they have, they are not able to communicate it.

In order to find out if your kid is dehydrated, check for one of the following symptoms that are specific to this condition:

  • Dry mouth and tongue;
  • Crying without tears;
  • The diapers remain dry for more than 3 hours;
  • Both the eyes and the cheeks are sunken;
  • A sunken soft spot-on top of the skull;
  • Irritability.

In case your child gets very thirsty, the chances are that he/she is already dehydrated.

Mild dehydration can be easily treated at home with water and rehydration fluids. The rehydration fluids are some special made to hydrate solutions that contain all of the needed amounts of water, sugar and minerals that your children’s body need to absorb, in order to feel well, again. This type of rehydrating solution could be bought over the counter as it does not need any prescription. 

Beside the rehydration solutions, in case of a mild dehydration, the home treatment normally consists of:

  • Allowing your child small sips of oral rehydration solution as often as possible, about 5 or 10 milliliters every few minutes.;
  • Breastfeeding (for babies), in case the child is not vomiting;
  • Giving him/her electrolytes ice pop (for older kids);
  • Keeping the child on his/her regular diet, only if its doctor does not have other recommendations. The kid might not want to eat, at first, but it is normal. As long as they are maintaining the rehydration treatment, it is ok if the child takes in very small amounts of solid food;
  • Allowing gradually your child to start on eating and drinking normally.

During this treatment at home, never substitute the rehydration solution with plain water, as it just does not have the same qualities. Moreover, you may never give your dehydrated kid drinks that are containing high amounts of sugar, as they could only make the symptoms worse.

The treatment of dehydration relies solely on the severity of the condition. If your child is suffering of severe dehydration, you should immediately transport him/her to the emergency room.

 

Beside the general dehydration symptoms in babies, pay attention to your child during the episode of dehydration. 

Check for the following:

  • The toddler refuses to drink anything for more than 2 hours;
  • In case your baby is younger than 1 year old and refuses to drink anything else beside the rehydration solution for 24 hours;
  • Your baby keeps on vomiting more than a few times during 24 hours;
  • The kid’s vomit is bright green, red, or brown;
  • The toddler is not starting to eat solid food within 3 or 4 days;
  • The kid is urinating noticeably less often (or fewer wet diapers in babies);
  • The kid just does not seem to get better

If you are noticing any of these, it means that your kid is suffering of a moderate or even severe dehydration and it needs proper medical treatment. Get your kid to a doctor as soon as possible.

 

Dehydration symptoms in elderly

Dehydration is a real danger for absolutely anyone, as our bodies rely solely on water.  But, for the seniors, dehydration can occur easier than to the adults, as their body functions could start to work less efficiently and loose some of the water supplies.

As we grow older, the risks of developing several health conditions increase. One of the most dangerous conditions for the elderly is by far the dehydration, as it could take them by surprise. Moreover, dehydration could lead to various other health complications. Let’s say that dehydration could be considered a stimulus for health conditions for the elderly.

The usual causes of dehydration in seniors are:

  • The feeling of thirst. Normally, we all know when we are thirsty and when we are not. If we are thirsty, we drink enough water to make this need disappear. But as we grow older, the senses could start to get altered. Therefore, we are no longer able to tell if we need water or not. Being older, it could get tricky from time to time, as you might easily end up dehydrated, without knowing that you are thirsty at all.
  • The functions of the body. While growing older, we lose water from the body’s composition and the organs may start to function less efficient than they used before. The kidneys are a great example in this case, as they are one of the most important organs that tend to make you lose more water while ageing. This could be a potential lead to a fluid imbalance in your body.
  • Diuretics. Different health conditions that are associated with an older age are treated with diuretics, such as the high blood pressure. The use of these medications could lead to dehydration.
  • Psychological/neurological disorders. Some illnesses that are normally developed by the elderly, such as dementia or Alzheimer, could represent an increased risk of dehydration. Suffering of one of these illnesses could make it hard for one to remember when he/she drank the last glass of water. These psychological impairments could significantly lead to dehydration and other health complications.

The usual mild dehydration symptoms in elderly are:

  • Dry mouth and tongue;
  • Headache;
  • Weakness;
  • Fatigue;
  • Irritability;
  • Very small amount of dark colored urine.

In case the mild dehydration is not treated, it could become more severe and other symptoms might occur as well:

  • Convulsions;
  • Dry and sunken eyes;
  • Very dry skin;
  • Muscle contractions;
  • Severe cramping;
  • Faster breathing.

 

How to prevent dehydration?

Dehydration can be very harmful to your health. Therefore, it is best to avoid it at all.

You can prevent dehydration by:

  • Drinking periodically water;
  • Eating foods that contain high amounts of water;
  • Avoiding hot environments;
  • Avoiding the excessive consume of alcohol, teas of coffee, or any other products that contain diuretics.

It is highly recommended to always carry water with you.

 

Conclusion

Water is essential to our existence. It is part of our lives, as it is in our very own composition. Without it, we would not exist. 

Unfortunately, getting dehydrated could be very risky. The persons that are most at risk are the toddlers and the elderly. The more time goes by without drinking water, the less chances of survival remain.

The good thing is that mild and moderate dehydration could be treated. Even the severe cases of dehydration can get treated, if the patient makes it in time to the hospital.

But dehydration could be easily avoided if you are drinking enough water daily.

For toddlers, it is more difficult to communicate that they are thirsty, therefore, in order to make sure that your child will not suffer of dehydration, it is very recommended to give him/her to drink water periodically.

The elderly could also prevent the dehydration if they keep on drinking water constantly. In case that one of your loved ones is suffering of a cognitive impairment that makes it difficult to remember to consume fluids, make sure that he/she stays hydrated.

Avoid getting dehydrated at all costs. Always carry water with you for yourself and for those you are carrying for. Stay hydrated!

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