Dehydration occurs when more liquid leaves your body compared to those that enter it. Since the human body is composed of roughly 75% water, it can’t survive if there’s a lack of fluids.
Rehydrating throughout the day is essential because you lose water when you defecate, urinate, sweat, or even breathe. Being unable to replenish your fluids will cause your body’s thirst mechanism to signal the onset of dehydration so that your body can balance out its water levels.
Causes Of Dehydration
Knowing what causes dehydration is vital to its prevention. Here are some of the most common causes you can look out for:
- Medication: Fluid loss is quicker when taking medications such as diuretics, chemotherapy, laxatives, and the like. Diuretics or water pills remove water and salt from your body through your pee. This type of medicine is especially prescribed for people with heart or high blood pressure problems because it eliminates the amount of fluid in their blood vessels. Laxatives, on the other hand, can help you relieve constipation. It uses some body fluids to soften your stool, but when you take this medicine in excess, you can become dehydrated. Since chemotherapy can cause diarrhea and vomiting, you can become dehydrated, especially if such episodes continue for days in a row.
In this case, you may need oral rehydration therapy (ORT) immediately to prevent further complications brought about by dehydration.
- Illness: When you’re sick, you usually experience vomiting and diarrhea. If you don’t rehydrate when experiencing these, your dehydration can become severe. Prolonged fevers can also result in dehydration as it causes you to sweat profusely. Moreover, when you have diabetes, your urine may be uncontrollable, which causes your body to lose more fluids.
- Heat: Another cause of dehydration may be excessive exposure to hot weather or staying indoors with poor ventilation. These scenarios can cause extreme sweating.
- Not Drinking Enough Water: As previously stated, dehydration can occur when your body doesn’t get enough water. You don’t even need to perform any physical activities for this to happen. Rehydrating as needed will replace the loss of fluids in your body.
Signs And Symptoms Of Dehydration
When your body goes below its required water levels, you become thirsty, which indicates that you need to increase your water intake. You can also experience decreased urination as a way for your body to save on water, resulting in a darker and more concentrated urine color. These are the first signs indicating that your body is becoming dehydrated.
You can experience the following signs and symptoms as well:
- Vomiting and nausea
- Muscle cramps
- Dry mouth
- Increased heart rate or palpitations
Your blood vessels may be constricting when your body tries to maintain blood flow to the vital organs. Accompanied by this condition is an increased heart rate because your body is trying to make up for its deficient fluid levels. Because of this, your skin will start to feel cold and clammy as your body prioritizes the rehydration of your vital organs such as intestines, kidneys, lungs, heart, and brain.
When extreme dehydration occurs, you can experience weakness and confusion because your vital organs are receiving less blood flow. If dehydration is left untreated, your organs may fail, or you may fall into a coma. The dangers of dehydration may even cause death due to its severity.
Although severe dehydration requires immediate medical attention, you can perform home remedies while waiting for medical attention. Especially when the initial signs and symptoms of dehydration occur, it’s best to drink more water.
For mild cases, you can help replace your body fluids with electrolyte drinks. However, don’t attempt to make your own mix of rehydration drinks. Instead, you can cook salty broths or soup. You can even crush fruit mix and water, extract fruit juices, or just drink plain water.
When you feel dehydrated, you should avoid diuretic drinks like alcoholic beverages, soda, tea, and coffee, since they decrease your water levels.
However, as mentioned, severe dehydration will require visiting the ER. Doctors will examine your urine and blood samples to verify if you’re experiencing dehydration. This is essential in determining whether or not your dehydration is caused by another medical condition. That way, they’ll know the proper treatment to apply to keep the situation from escalating.
After this, doctors may administer intravenous or IV fluids for your body to rehydrate. This can be done in an outpatient care facility or the hospital. Then, they’ll monitor your kidney function, heart rate, and blood pressure.
Other treatments doctors may administer depending on the severity of your dehydration include rehydrating you with fluids containing carbohydrates or electrolytes alongside ample water intake.
Treating A Dehydrated Child
Oral rehydration may be the best treatment for infants or children, especially when dehydration results in diarrhea, vomiting, or fever. Some treatment plans allow you to administer over-the-counter medicine to help balance your child’s salts and electrolytes.
You can give them small amounts using a teaspoon for younger children, but using a dropper may help if you can’t let them drink.
For older children, you may also let them consume sports drinks diluted with water, but only in small sips.
For infants, you should avoid giving fruit juices if they have diarrhea or are vomiting as these may have side effects. The best remedy is to provide them with more formula milk or breast milk.
Children experiencing dehydration are more in danger, so the best solution is to call their pediatrician or go to the ER, especially when they’re experiencing the following signs:
- No tears when crying
- Dry mouth
- Dark yellow pee
- Blotchy and cold feet and hands
- Few wet diapers
- Less responsive than usual
- Extreme sleepiness
If you or someone you know is experiencing severe dehydration, you should be wary of the symptoms. The best way to treat it is to call 911 or go to the hospital, especially for severe cases.
If you’re treating someone with dehydration, you should also consider their age group. For adults, drinking water and other fluids with electrolytes may be best. However, you should take precautions for dehydrated children. Depending on how young they are, you can give them breast milk or formula if they’re infants, and diluted sports drinks for older children.