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What is Dehydration?

By Dr. Vandana Boobna in Internal Medicine

Dec 05 , 2016 | 2 min read

A common illness that is generally ignored due to unawareness but can be easily treated and prevented. It can have grave consequences if not taken care on time.

Dr. Vandana Boobna, Consultant, Max healthcare Shalimar Bagh says, "Dehydration is usually caused by not drinking enough fluid to replace what we lose. The climate, physical exercises you are doing, particularly in hot dry weather and your diet can contribute to dehydration". There are certain conditions where we lose excessive water like vomiting, loose motion or diarrhea and profuse sweating in fever, which in turn can lead to dehydration. Children/old age and teens are particularly vulnerable to it and they either ignore or fail to recognize the warning signs.

How is Dehydration caused?

Dehydration primarily occurs when there isn't enough water to replace what is lost throughout the day. Your system literally dries out. Sometimes dehydration can occur for simple reasons like, you might not feel like drinking water because you're sick or busy, or you lack access to safe drinking water when you're traveling, hiking or camping. Other reasons can be:

  • Fever: fever leads to excessive sweat and loss of body reserve of fluids if not replaced adequately
  • Frequent Urination: Uncontrolled or undiagnosed diabetes can lead to dehydration as this condition can cause you to perspire or urinate more often than normal.
  • Extreme Sweating: In summers, hot and humid weather can increase the amount of sweat, thereby increasing the amount of fluid you can lose. Also, if you actively engaged in doing vigorous exercises, and don’t replace the fluids, you can become dehydrated.
  • Excessive vomiting/ diarrhea : Severe diarrhea can lead to loss of water and electrolytes. Infants and children are at a higher risk, for this reason it is advised to give them water in frequent intervals. Diarrhea is usually caused by viral or bacterial infection or a bowel disorder. 

What are the most common symptoms?

  • Dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Decreased urine output
  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Sleepiness or tiredness — children are likely to be less active than usual
  • Thirst
  • No wet diapers for three hours for infants
  • Few or no tears when crying
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or syncope

Severe dehydration can cause:

  • Low BP
  • Little or no urine
  • Sleepiness in children; confusion and irritability in adults
  • Shriveled skin that does not bounce back when pinched
  • Rapid heartbeat/breathing
  • Unconsciousness
  • Sunken Fontanels in infants- soft spots on top of baby’s head
  • Mucous membranes

Note: Clear or light coloured urine indicates that you are well hydrated, while dark yellow urine indicates dehydration.

How can you Self-Care at home to treat Dehydration?

The first and the foremost thing you should do is to:

  • Drink electrolytes containing drinks.
  • Keep drinking water in frequent intervals
  • A person who has had jaw surgery or mouth sores can use a straw to sip water
  • Grab sports drinks or carbohydrate drinks like Gatorade/ coconut water / ORS

How can you prevent Dehydration?

You should anticipate the need for increased fluid intake. Do the following to prevent dehydration:

1. Avoid doing exercise during high heat days rather prefer days when the temperature is a bit cooler. This can reduce stress and save you from dehydration.

 

2. Try to wear light-colored/loose fitted clothes when going out

      

3. Carry water to all outside events especially when exercising, sweating as this can lead to loss of fluids. 

   

4. Decrease alcohol consumption because it partially impairs your ability to know the early signs of dehydration

 

5. Infants and older children must drink enough water to maintain adequate fluids. If your child is vomiting or has diarrhea, start giving extra water or an oral rehydration solution at the first signs of illness. Don't wait until dehydration occurs.