Dehydration occurs once the body loses more fluid than what is taken in. When the normal content of water in the body is diminished, it triggers a disruption in the balance of minerals in the body which affects the way it functions. Always bear in mind that water comprises over two-thirds of the human body. It is responsible for lubricating the eyes and joints, flushes out wastes and toxins, facilitates proper digestion and keeps the skin healthy.
Early warning indications of dehydration
- Dry mouth
- Feeling thirsty and lightheaded
- Infrequent urination
- Dark colored, foul-smelling urine
An infant might be dehydrated if the following are present:
- Appears drowsy
- Has a sunken soft spot or fontanelle on the head
- Infrequent amount of soiled diapers
- Few or no tears when crying
Remember that the body is affected even if a small amount of fluids are lost.
Causes of dehydration
Dehydration is usually due to not drinking enough fluids to replace what was lost. The amount of physical activities being performed, the climate and the diet can also contribute to dehydration. An individual can become dehydrated due to certain conditions such as fever, persistent diarrhea and vomiting as well as sweating.
Who are at risk?
Any individual can become dehydrated, but certain groups face a high risk which includes the following:
- The elderly might not be aware that they are becoming dehydrated and should regularly take in fluids
- Infants have low body weight and highly sensitive to minimal amounts of fluid loss
- Individuals who have long-term health conditions such as alcoholism or diabetes
- Athletes can lose large amounts of fluids via sweating when exercising for extended periods.
Once an individual is dehydrated, he/she must drink plenty of fluids such as water or fruit juices. These are effective than drinking large amounts of coffee or tea.
For infants and small children who are dehydrated, they should not be given large amounts of water as the main replacement fluid. Remember that water can dilute the low level of minerals in the body too much and trigger other problems. It is best to provide them with a rehydration solution. If not treated early, severe dehydration can be serious and trigger seizures, brain damage and even death.
When to consult a doctor
A doctor should be consulted if the symptoms persist despite the intake of fluids or an infant or toddler is dehydrated.
Once dehydration is suspected, a urine test or blood tests are required to check the balance of salts in the body. A doctor should be contacted right away if the following symptoms are present:
- Lethargic or confused
- Extreme thirst
- Rapid heart rate
- Not passing urine for 8 hours
- Dizziness when standing up that does not subside for a few seconds
If an infant had more than 6 episodes of diarrhea within 24 hours or vomited more than 3 times, consult a doctor right away.
Right amount of fluids to drink
Based on studies conducted regarding the recommended daily intake of fluid, it tends to vary depending on the individual and factors such as the climate, age and physical activity.
A rule to remember is to drink enough fluid to curb down the thirst for long periods and to steadily increase the intake while exercising or during warm weather. Take note that passing clear urine is a good indication of proper hydration.
It is important to drink plenty of fluids if some of the symptoms of dehydration are present such as thirst and being lightheaded or passing dark-colored urine. In addition, after an episode of diarrhea, do not forget to replace the fluid lost.