When you lose more fluids than you consume, your body becomes dehydrated. The reduction of the ordinary fluid level in the body causes an upset in the body's mineral balance as well. Problems with body salts and sugars can in turn affect vital functions.
Two-thirds of a healthy human body is composed of water. Water aids in digestion, lubricates eyes and joints, keeps skin healthy, and flushes toxins and wastes from the body. The following are signs and symptoms of dehydration.
- Dry mouth and thirst
- Dark-colored urine
- Reduced urine production
- Sunken fontanelle (the skull’s soft spot) in babies
- Few, if any, tears when crying
- Few wet diapers in babies
Even a small loss of body water can lead to considerable effects.
Drinking extra water is often an easy remedy for dehydration in adults and older children. Sometimes, carbonated drinks, fruit juices, milk and coffee only exacerbate dehydration. Since alcohol and caffeine increase fluid loss, those suffering from dehydration should avoid drinking beverages that contain these things, regardless of the degree or type of dehydration suffered.
Instead of caffeinated drinks or alcohol, drink small amounts of water every 15-30 minutes. Avoid drinking large amounts of fluids at once, especially if you have conditions such as vomiting and diarrhea. If urine becomes lighter, this shows improvement in dehydrated patients. If a patient's condition is so bad that he/she cannot keep fluids down, he/she may want to try sucking on ice chips.
Children who are dehydrated often need more rehydrating than can be given with plain water. Small children and infants are especially prone to electrolyte loss during dehydration. To avoid the likelihood of an electrolyte imbalance in children, pediatricians often recommend oral rehydration solution.
This solution is also a preventive measure for dehydration when children are ill. According to KidsHealth, doctors recommend drinking 1-2 teaspoons of rehydration solution using a syringe or a spoon, and to continue this every several minutes. Children may also enjoy sucking on the solution in the form of a freezer pop.
An oral sports drink or rehydration solution with controlled levels of electrolytes is also suitable for most children with dehydration. This is also true when adults become dehydrated after increased perspiration.
If you spot signs of dehydration in your child, call a pediatrician immediately. Symptoms of dehydration in children include dry mouth, tearless crying, and lethargy. Unless a dehydrated infant is vomiting, mothers should continue breastfeeding. Doctors typically recommend oral rehydration solution in between feedings, and temporary avoidance of solid foods until dehydration subsides.
Extreme thirst, lack of urination, confusion and shrunken skin are all signs of severe dehydration, and call for emergency medical attention. IN cases of severe dehydration, fluids and salts may be administered by intravenous methods to replenish the body faster than oral rehydration therapy. It is also important to manage or treat the underlying cause of severe dehydration.
How Much Should I Drink?
While research often recommends a certain fluid intake, a person's ideal intake depends on individual factors such as climate, age, and physical activity.
The bottom line of hydration is to ensure you are never thirsty for long periods of time. Drink fluids steadily, especially during hot weather and when exercising. Light or clear urine is a simple sign of proper hydration.
If you experience dark-colored urine, or are thirsty or lightheaded, drink lots of fluids. When you have persistent vomiting and diarrhea, work hard to replace the lost fluids and avoid dehydration.