Health care

Dehydration Symptoms – How To Identify and Treat Dehydration

Dehydration symptoms are the direct result of your body not having enough water or fluids to function properly. Dehydration symptoms can result due to a number of situations or conditions. Diarrhea, vomiting, and simply failing to drink enough water to meet your body’s needs are common causes of dehydration. There are three classifications used to describe dehydration symptoms: mild, moderate, and severe. Severe dehydration is a life-threatening condition and needs immediate medical attention. Babies and young children are in a higher risk category for dehydration due to their small body size and the potential for rapid fluctuations in body water levels. Other high risk individuals include the elderly and those with chronic illnesses.

You may experience additional dehydration symptoms if your body undergoes a loss or imbalance of electrolytes (salts dissolved in the body) along with the loss of water. Water and electrolytes are needed for your body to carry out most of its vital functions.

Symptoms Of Dehydration

Dehydration symptoms are classified as mild, moderate, or severe. Mild and moderate symptoms of dehydration are similar but vary in intensity.

Mild to moderate dehydration symptoms

  • Dry or sticky mouth
  • Thirst
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Fatigue or a desire to sleep
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Decreased urination in both amount and frequency. If urine is produced, it will appear to be a darker yellow color than normal

Signs that an infant or young child is experiencing dehydration may be detected if the parent or guardian notices there have been no wet diapers in the past three hours or that the child produces few or no tears during bouts of crying. Severe dehydration requires immediate medical attention and can be life threatening.

Severe dehydration symptoms

  • Extreme thirst
  • Extreme dryness in the mouth
  • Irritability, disorientation, or confusion that could advance to delirium or unconsciousness
  • Inability to sweat
  • Little or no need to urinate – if urine is produced, it will appear dark yellow or amber in color
  • Changes in skin elasticity and skin may appear to be shriveled and dry
  • Sunken eyes
  • No tear production when crying
  • Fever
  • Low blood pressure
  • Accelerated or rapid heartbeat
  • Accelerated or rapid breathing

Dehydration Causes

Many causes of dehydration exist and there are a number of reasons your body may lose too much fluid. You may not take in sufficient amounts of water or other hydrating fluids due to:

  • A general ill feeling, nausea, or stomach upset
  • A sore throat
  • Sores in your mouth that make it uncomfortable to drink

You can also experience dehydration symptoms when you lose too much water or fluid from your body. This excess loss of body fluids may be due to:

  • Persistent vomiting or Diarrhea
  • Persistent high fever
  • Profuse sweating
  • Overuse of diuretics (“water pills”)
  • Certain diseases such as Diabetes or diseases of the adrenal glands or kidneys

Infants and young children may refuse to drink when they are sick. Dehydration symptoms could be accelerated if the child is also experiencing a high fever, diarrhea, or vomiting.

Dehydration Diagnosis

Diagnosis of dehydration symptoms can be challenging due to the fact that there is no fundamental gauge of your body’s water needs at any given time. Diagnosis may be based on the observation of the aforementioned dehydration symptoms and an evaluation of the color of your urine.

If you are well hydrated, your urine will appear to be clear or a light yellow color. As your body becomes dehydrated, your urine will appear darker. The presence of dark yellow urine or urine that looks amber in color is a strong indicator of dehydration.

Most adults can withstand short periods of mild to moderate dehydration without suffering long-term health risks. However, if you, or someone you are with, show signs of severe dehydration as described above, immediate medical attention is needed.

An evaluation by a physician will depend on cause and severity of the dehydration symptoms. Tests to detect the presence or severity of dehydration may include blood pressure tests, heart rate evaluation, urine analysis, or a blood chemistry test.

Dehydration Treatment

Treatment will vary depending on the cause and degree of dehydration. If dehydration symptoms are mild, you should increase fluid intake. However, it is best to intake small amounts of fluid in frequent intervals. Do not try to force large volumes of water or other fluids into your system at one time as this could lead to vomiting. Infants and children can be given fluids slowly using a teaspoon or syringe, but it is best to consult with your child’s doctor first to ensure the proper balance of fluids and electrolytes are restored. Eating ice chips can be a helpful way to slowly introduce fluids back into a mildly dehydrated body.

If you are also experiencing a loss of electrolytes or an electrolyte imbalance, you can eat freezer pops. These can be found at your local pharmacy. Sports drinks such as Gatorade contain high amounts of sugar and can worsen diarrhea. These drinks should be used with caution.

If dehydration symptoms are moderate to severe fluids may need to be replaced intravenously and this may require hospitalization.

If dehydration is due to vomiting, Diarrhea, or high fever, treatment of the underlying condition by a physician should alleviate the problem. Medications may be needed to control vomiting (antiemetic medications) and diarrhea.

In most cases, full recovery from dehydration symptoms is possible once fluids have been replaced and the underlying cause resolved.

Dehydration can be caused by a number of conditions and illnesses and if proper care is not taken quickly, the condition can threaten your life or the life of your infant or loved one.

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