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Dehydration Information - Key Factors to Know to Protect Your Health

Dehydration Information - Key Factors to Know to Protect Your Health

With the Summer in full swing, temperatures rising, and outdoor activity increasing, now is a critical time to address a major health issue that could cause serious complications if not treated properly: dehydration. 

Dehydration occurs when you use or lose more fluid than you take in, and your body doesn't have enough water and other fluids to function properly. By not replacing those lost fluids, you can easily become dehydrated.

Dehydration comes in three forms - mild, moderate, and severe. The causes can range from simply not drinking enough water, to a side effect of a more complicated disease, such as diabetes. It's important to realize that anyone is at risk for dehydration, but this condition is especially dangerous for young children, and elderly adults.

In younger children, dehydration is typically very common with vomiting, diarrhea, or a combination of the two with an unwelcome friend that we all know and hate: the stomach virus. Children can also lose a high proportion of their fluids from a high fever or burns.  

In elderly adults, dehydration is common because their bodies naturally produce a lower volume of water, and they may take medications or have conditions that increase the risk of dehydration. This means, that any minor illness or infection - especially those that affect the lungs and bladder, can quickly result in dehydration.

But, those above aren't the only causes of this condition. Dehydration can also be caused by:

  • Not drinking enough water during high heat.
  • Excessive sweating - especially after exercise.
  • Vigorous Exercise
  • Fevers - In general, the higher your fever, the more dehydrated you become. 
  • Diarrhea - Dehydration usually occurs with severe, acute diarrhea - meaning, diarrhea that comes on suddenly and violently, and causes a tremendous loss of water and electrolytes in a short amount of time.  
  • Vomiting
  • Diuretics
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney Disease and other chronic illnesses 

Mild to moderate dehydration can usually be reversed by simply drinking more fluids. Severe dehydration, however, will require immediate medical attention - usually resulting in a person getting intravenous fluids, or IV fluids

Most symptoms of dehydration aren't usually felt until the body is already in dehydration. Thirst, isn't always an indicator, especially for elderly adults, which is why it is always recommended to increase your body's fluid intake when the temperature rises, or you are ill.
The signs and symptoms of dehydration vary depending on age group.
Symptoms of Dehydration in Infants & Children
  • Dry mouth and tongue
  • No tears when crying, or dry eyes
  • Rapid breathing
  • Cool and blotchy feet or hands
  • No urination for 3 hours
  • Sunken cheeks and eyes
  • Sunken soft spot on the top of the skull
  • Listless and/or irritability

Symptoms of Dehydration in Adults

  • Extreme thirst
  • Less than normal urination
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

If dehydration is not properly treated right away, it can lead to more serious medical conditions in both adults and children, including:

  • Heat Injury - such as, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heatstroke, which can be life threatening.
  • Urinary and Kidney Problems - such as, urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and kidney failure. 
  • Seizures - because electrolytes help carry electrical signals from cell to cell, they bring a balance to your body. When they are out of balance, the normal electrical messages can become mixed up, which can lead to involuntary muscle contractions, and even loss of consciousness.
  • Hypovolemic Shock - or low blood volume, is one of the most serious and life threatening complications from dehydration. It occurs when low blood volume causes a big drop in blood pressure, and a drop in the amount of oxygen in your body. 

As with anything, prevention is key in order to avoid dehydration. Drinking plenty of fluids, eating foods high in water, such as fruits and vegetables, and letting thirst be your guide is an adequate daily guideline for most healthy people. Be sure to also monitor the coloration of your urine. Producing lots of clear, dilute urine is a good indication that you are well hydrated.

If you, or your child are sick, to prevent dehydration, start giving extra water or oral rehydration solution at the first sign of illness. As always, check with your physician for their professional, medical recommendations. 

Treatment Options

Luckily, if you do find yourself dehydrated, there are several treatment options to reverse it before any complications arise. 

The only effective way to treat dehydration is to replace lost fluids and lost electrolytes. Treatment options do depend on age, as well as the severity of dehydration, and its cause.

As stated earlier, adults with mild to moderate dehydration can be treated by simply drinking more fluids, or eating more foods that contain water, and proper nutritional value.

For infants and children who have become dehydrated from illness, an over the counter oral rehydration solution should be used. A great example of this is Pedialyte. It is filled with water, salts, and supplements in specific proportions to replenish both fluids, and electrolytes. Older children can be given diluted sports drinks, such as Gatorade or Powerade to help. Be sure to check with your doctor on the recommended amounts.

For children and adults who are severely dehydrated should be immediately treated by emergency personnel, or go to your nearest emergency room. Salts, sugars and fluids lost, will then be delivered through Intravenous Rehydration and absorbed quickly to ensure a speedy recovery.

Dehydration from Mountainside Medical Equipment on Vimeo.


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