Dehydration is a term used to describe the state in which the body loses more liquid than it takes in. The body loses fluids on a daily basis through urinating, undergoing a bowel movement, sweating, and breathing. The feeling of thirst indicates a drop in liquids within the body and reminds the individual to restore hydration levels. An individual should drink at least 10 glasses of water a day to make up for any lost fluids.

Dehydration is a pathological condition that is caused by not drinking enough water or other fluids in order to carry out the body’s normal functions. It may also occur as a result of prolonged diarrhea and / or vomiting, with regards to excessive sweating (for example in the case of intense physical activity), and defects in hydration levels.  Anyone may become dehydrated, but young children, older adults and people with chronic illnesses are most at risk.

The safest approach is preventing dehydration in the first place. Maintaining fluid intake throughout the day, during hot weather, while exercising or during sick days is vital in order to prevent symptoms from worsening and further complications from arising.

What are the symptoms associated with dehydration?

The first symptom of dehydration is thirst. Though it does not increase as the situation worsens, it is certainly the first signal to indicate a warning that something is wrong.  As the dehydration state advances, urination becomes less frequent and the urine turns into a dark yellow color. Mild dehydration also impairs motor control ability as well as triggers mood swings. Other signs and symptoms of dehydration may include the following:

  • Dry mouth and tongue
  • Tiredness
  • Dry skin
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Rapid heart rate
  • In more severe cases, dementia or unconsciousness

What to do

Dehydration treatments most often depend on an individual’s age, the severity of their condition and its cause. The most crucial and effective treatment for dehydration is to replace lost fluids by drinking plenty of water. If the situation is more severe, as a result of prolonged episodes of diarrhea and/or vomiting, forms of treatment may include the following:

  • Drinking oral rehydration solutions  (found in pharmacies)
  • Adding minerals to the water
  • Sucking on popsicles or ice chips
  • Staying in air conditioned environments 

Seeking immediate medical attention is vital in instances where an individual’s symptoms worsen or don’t improve within 24 hours, if the individual is elderly, or if any medications have caused the dehydration. Fluid replacement may take up to a day and a half.

What not to do

Underestimating a state of dehydration if it is prolonged can have serious consequences. Severe dehydration is a medical emergency which can a fatal outcome if not properly intervened. Therefore, it is important to identify the cause and determine the most appropriate form of treatment. In any case, sodas, sports drinks and others that contain sugar are prohibited, as they can worsen an individual’s situation. Proper management of oral fluid replacement is an effective method to treating dehydration, while easing symptoms and preventing further complications from arising.

Disclaimer: The information in this article does not in any way replace the intervention or signs associated with this type of emergency, but rather only provides simple tips as how to keep the situation under control while waiting for a medical rescue team to arrive.