Water is the essence of life. From time immemorial, the key to survival of all species that have moved to land is to stay hydrated. Water comprises 75% of the human body where it transports, dissolves, and replenishes nutrients as well as organic matter, while carrying away waste material. Furthermore, it regulates the activities of fluids, cells, tissues, blood, lymph, and glandular secretions.
The average person has 42 liters of water in his or her body! Even a small loss of 2.7 liters can lead to dehydration.
Dehydration isn’t a simple health issue. Your body can end up losing liquids at any point in time due to various reasons. This makes it vital for you to stay hydrated at all times.
What Is Dehydration?
Water makes up at least two-thirds of your body and plays a large part in normal bodily functions, including eliminating harmful toxins and facilitating proper digestion. As your body uses up the water content, the lost fluids need to be replaced adequately to avoid a potential imbalance between the salts and sugar in your body.
Dehydration happens when you use up or lose more water than you take in. Consequently, your body struggles to carry out normal functions. We can lose water every day through exhaled air or through other bodily excretions like sweat, urine, and stool. Your body can also end up losing small amount of salts in this manner. As you lose more water without replacing it, you’re at an increased risk of being dehydrated. If left untreated, severe dehydration can even lead to death!
Who Is At Risk Of Dehydration?
Irrespective of the age, you can get dehydrated if you haven’t had enough water – especially when it’s hot or when you’re engaged in vigorous physical activity. Mountain climbers and hikers are more prone to lose water quickly because of the increased exchange of gases in high altitude places. Athletes are also predisposed to the effects of dehydration.
When it comes to children or infants, special care is needed as their bodies are more susceptible to losing water. As a result, their need for water is greater than that of adults. As you grow older, you can lose out on your sense of thirst, thereby increasing your risk of getting dehydrated. Even people with dementia are found to have a six-fold increase in risk for dehydration.
People suffering from kidney disease, diabetes or adrenal gland disorders are prone to dehydration too. If you’re under the influence of alcohol, your body tends to lose more water than normal as you urinate more often, ultimately leading to dehydration.
Signs And Symptoms Of Dehydration That You Need To Watch Out For
The early signs of dehydration can include having a flushed face, dry mouth or a dry tongue with thick saliva. Other symptoms of mild dehydration are:1
- Extreme thirst
- Dry, warm skin
- Difficulty urinating
- Dark, yellow urine
- Little or no urine
- Crying with few or no tears
- Sleepy or irritable
- Muscle cramps
In the case of severe dehydration, things can get a little more serious. You could be extremely thirsty or feel irritable and confused; your blood pressure can drop drastically; you could have a rapid heart rate and breathe heavily; you can even feel feverish or lose consciousness.
Chronic dehydration may affect your body organs and lead to kidney stones, liver, joint, and muscle damage or even cholesterol problems. Whether you have mild or severe dehydration, you need to be very careful about replacing the lost fluids as quickly as possible.
Causes Of Dehydration
From losing water due to frequent urination to losing body fluids through sweating, there are a number of ways how you can get dehydrated. There are other main causes of dehydration, such as:2
- Viral gastroenteritis
- Bacterial infections
- Food poisoning
- Diabetes Insipidus
When Should You Seek Medical Help?
While there are certain signs that point to the fact that you’re dehydrated, having one or more of these symptoms for a longer period of time could mean that it’s time to seek medical care. Make sure that you visit a doctor if you experience:
- Fever over 101 F
- Diarrhea for more than 2 days
- Increased or constant vomiting for more than a day
- Weight loss
- Decreased urine production
When Is It Time For Emergency Medical Assistance?
Your symptoms can get more severe if you’re still losing your body fluids regularly without replacing it. In such a scenario, you need to seek emergency medical help immediately! The symptoms in such cases include:3
- Fever over 103 F
- Chest or abdominal pain
- Difficulty breathing
- No urine in the last 12 hours
Dehydration Signs In Infants
As discussed earlier, infants are more vulnerable to dehydration. This is why immediate medical attention should be given to them if you see symptoms like:4
- Sunken soft spot (fontanelle) on their head
- Few or no tears when they cry
- Dry mouth
- Few wet diapers
- Fast breathing
Tips To Prevent Dehydration
Water plays a very important role in ensuring that your bodily functions occur without any hiccups. It is important that you replenish your body with a sufficient amount of water to counter the effects of lost body fluids.
Remember to carry water around with you wherever you go – especially when you’re engaging in any constant physical activity or when the general weather is too hot for your liking. A good rule of thumb is to drink as much water as possible until your urine is light yellow in color. Dark urine can only mean that your body is trying its best to retain body fluids.
It is also important to pay individual attention to people who are sick as they tend to get dehydrated quickly. When ignored or left untreated, dehydration can surely turn in to a life-threatening condition.