Dehydration symptoms vary on the severity, but the most reliable indicator is urine color. Clear or light-yellow indicates proper hydration, whereas dark yellow or brown color of the urine signals dehydration.
Even though it is widely-considered as the most prominent indicator of the body's need for water, thirst is unfortunately very unreliable especially in children and the elderly.
Mild to moderate cases of dehydration can be treated by drinking more fluids.
In case you develop any of the following signs and symptoms, please seek immediate medical care.
If you, or somebody you care for suffers from diarrhea, vomiting, or fever, you should monitor his/her condition and encourage them to drink more water. This refers especially to young children and the elderly.
Dehydration is caused when the quantity of water inside the body becomes insufficient for normal functioning.
It occurs for simple reasons:
Low intake - you don’t take enough water because you are sick, busy, or you don’t have access to safe drinking water.
The most common reason for increased water loss is diarrhea, notably severe infectious diarrhea. It comes suddenly and causes excessive loss of water and electrolytes, especially when followed with vomiting.
The condition is even more severe in children and infants.
Other causes of diarrhea include:
The other common reason is fever. The higher you fever is, the more dehydrated you become. One of the possible reasons is hyperventilation.
medications (antihypertensive drugs, diuretics) etc.
4 Making a Diagnosis
Depending on the severity of symptoms, you will most likely start by visiting your family doctor, pediatrician or urgent medical care unit to receive a diagnosis.
Do not forget to mention all the symptoms you are experiencing, all other chronic illnesses and medications you are taking. Also include your life and dietary habits.
You can try to replenish fluids and electrolytes with water oral rehydration solutions. Please bear in mind that children should be given both water and electrolytes at the same time in order to fix electrolyte imbalance.
There are several ways for a medical professional to detect dehydration:
Little or no urination ( dark-yellow urine)
Skin without elasticity
Fast heart rate
Low blood pressure
Blood tests – glucose, ketone bodies, levels of potassium and sodium etc.
Treatment for dehydration is consisted of replacing lost fluids and electrolytes depending on the patients age, severity of the dehydration and its cause.
Be careful when treating children and do the following:
Use oral rehydration solutions – these contain water and electrolytes in specific proportions. Start using them as soon as possible, even before you visit the doctor. Use small amounts at frequent intervals (one spoon every few minutes) on room temperatures.
Continue with breast-feeding, even if your baby is sick, or use lactose-free formulas (lactose can worsen diarrhea).
Treating dehydration in adults:
In most cases the condition can be substantially improved with using water or other liquids.
Avoid coffee and fruit juices which could worsen your condition.
Severe cases of dehydration should be treated by emergency personnel. Water and salts should be given intravenously which provides more immediate results.
In order to prevent dehydration, drink enough fluids and eat foods rich in water. Thirst should be your guide for hydration control, but you should also follow the look of your urine.
In some cases you should increase your regular fluid intake:
During exercise – preferably before starting the exercise. Take fluids during and after exercise too. Be careful not to take to much and cause bloating or hyponatremia
During Illnesses, specially ones followed with fever.
In humid environment
At high altitudes
In heated indoor spaces
7 Risks and Complications
There are several risks and complications associated with dehydration.
Anyone is prone to becoming dehydrated, but some categories of population are more prone than the others.
Children and infants – small body weight and higher percentage of body-water content than in adults.
Elderly – smaller body weight, other chronic conditions, lower water intake, disabilities, dementia.
People with chronic illnesses –particularly diabetes, kidney diseases, cardiovascular diseases.
Athletes – body loses water during exercise, particularly in humid air and high altitudes.
Heat injury – ranging from mild cramps to heatstroke
Seizures – these can occur because of electrolyte imbalance. During dehydration levels of potassium and sodium tend to change which can lead to serious effect. These electrolytes are main responsible for passing electrical signals in the cells.
Hypovolemic shock – the fall of blood volume which is characterized by inadequate oxygen supply to the tissues, low blood pressure and tachycardia.
Severe cases of dehydration can be FATAL if not treated properly.
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