Updated: July 2, 2020
Dehydration is a condition that can occur when the loss of body fluids, mostly water, exceeds the amount that is taken in and your body does not have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions.
Although dehydration can happen to anyone, some people are at a greater risk. Those at most risk include:
Because of severe diarrhea and vomiting, infants and children are at higher risk of dehydration. They can also lose a higher proportion of their fluids from a high fever. Young children often can not tell you that they are thirsty, nor can they get a drink for themselves.
Your body's fluid reserve becomes smaller, your ability to conserve water is reduced and your thirst sense becomes less acute as you age. These problems are also there for chronic illnesses such as diabetes and dementia, and by the use of certain medications. Older adults also may have mobility problems that limit their ability to obtain water for themselves.
People with uncontrolled or untreated diabetes are at high risk of dehydration. Kidney disease also increases your risk, as the medications used increases urination. Even having a cold or sore throat makes you more susceptible to dehydration because you are less likely to feel like eating or drinking when you are sick.
Other chronic illness such as cystic fibrosis, alcoholism, and adrenal gland disorders also may have increased risk of dehydration.
When the weather is hot and humid, your risk of dehydration increases. This is because when the air is humid, sweat can not evaporate and cool you as quickly as it normally does, and this can lead to an increased body temperature and the need for more fluids.
People at higher altitudes are at increased risk of dehydration.
At the initial stage both physical and mental examination can be done to diagnose dehydration. A patient with symptoms such as disorientation, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, fever, lack of sweat, and inelastic skin will usually be considered dehydrated.
To help confirm the diagnosis and to find the degree of dehydration, you may have other tests, such as:
Blood samples may be used to check for a number of factors, such as the levels of your electrolytes, especially sodium and potassium and how well your kidneys are working.
A urine test can help show whether you are dehydrated and to what degree. Signs of a bladder infection can also be checked.
To diagnose dehydration in infants, doctors usually check for a sunken soft spot on the skull. They may also look for a loss of sweat and certain muscle tone characteristics.
The only effective treatment for dehydration is to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. The best approach to dehydration treatment depends on age, the severity of dehydration and its underlying cause.
For infants and children who have become dehydrated from diarrhea, vomiting or fever, an oral rehydration solution such as Pedialyte or Hydralyte can be used. These solutions contain water and salts in specific proportions to restore both fluids and electrolytes.
Most adults with mild to moderate dehydration from diarrhea, vomiting or fever can improve their condition by drinking more water or other liquids. This can be done by consuming clear fluids such as water, clear broths, frozen water or ice pops, or sports drinks. Diarrhea may be worsened by taking fruit juice and soft drinks.
Severely dehydrated patients will require intravenous fluids in order to rehydrate quickly and speed recovery. People who are dehydrated should avoid drinks containing caffeine such as coffee, tea, and sodas.
Underlying conditions that are causing dehydration should also be treated with the appropriate medication. This may include anti-diarrhea medicines, anti-emetics which stop vomiting and anti-fever medicines.
Consuming plenty of fluids and foods that have high water content such as fruits and vegetables will help prevent dehydration.
People may need to take in more fluids if they are experiencing conditions such as Vomiting or diarrhea, do strenuous exercise, are in hot or cold weather or during minor illnesses such as influenza, bronchitis or bladder infections. Make sure to drink extra fluids when you are not feeling well.
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