Dehydration is a common condition where the body loses too much fluid than taken in. The body requires an adequate amount of water to carry out normal functioning. If the body loses a high amount of fluid – more than it gets from food and liquids, it loses electrolytes and becomes dehydrated. Electrolytes include essential nutrients like sodium and potassium, which our body needs to function normally. Dehydration can occur at any time of year, not just during the summer. Furthermore, older people are more prone to dehydration because their bodies contain less water than younger people.
Getting enough water in a day is very important and the amount of water intake will change every day. Water intake should be more if it is a hot day or involves exercising and more physical activities. Our body signals us when we are thirsty. Dehydration means that the body lacks enough water and feels thirsty, which is already a dehydration sign.
When there is no thirst, one of the simple and obvious ways to find if you are dehydrated or not is by checking how often you go to the toilet and the colour of the urine is also a simple way to tell if your body is getting enough water. If it is pale yellow, it is a sign of being hydrated, and if it is dark yellow, it is a sign of dehydration. The latter condition means that the body requires more water consumption.
How to ensure if I am dehydrated?
Knowing if the body is dehydrated does not require expert advice. It’s as simple as listening to your body’s signals telling you that you are dehydrated.
Signs of dehydration include:
- Dark – concentrated urine
- Decreased urination
- Dry nasal passages
- Dry or cracked lips
- Dry mouth and tongue with thick saliva
- Sleepy, difficult to wake up
- Dry, warm skin
- Few or no tears when crying
- Decreased skin elasticity
Treatments for dehydration
Prevention is the most essential and foremost step in the treatment of dehydration. The treatment for dehydration is fluid replacement. You can try replacing fluid by mouth, but if this does not work, you may have to administer the intravenous fluid. Take smaller sips of fluids when trying to rehydrate by consuming orally.
Dehydration in the elderly
Elderly people may need constant and frequent reminders to drink water regularly. Dehydration in the elderly may lead to certain symptoms like confusion, dry skin, migraines, low blood pressure, digestive problems and constipation. Organ failure can occur as a result of severe dehydration over time.
Elderly people are at higher risk of dehydration due to:
- Declining kidney function
- Hormonal changes
- Not feeling thirsty
- Medication (for example, diuretics and laxatives)
- Chronic illness
- Limited mobility
Dehydration in children
Children can become dehydrated quickly, especially at times when they are sick. Vomiting, fevers and diarrhoea can quickly dehydrate a baby or young child.
This can put a child’s life at risk. It is highly important to monitor the water intake of children. If children are dehydrated, consult a doctor or immediately take them to the hospital.
Dehydration in a child can cause the following symptoms:
- Cold skin
- Lethargy (tiredness)
- Dry mouth
- Sunken fontanelle on the skull
- A blue tinge of the skin as circulation of blood slows
When do you need to take extra notice of how much you drink?
When a person has severe kidney disease, it is good to consult with a doctor to know the limits of total fluid intake and how much water can be consumed in a day.
As you exercise more, you’ll need more water for your body to stay hydrated. During prolonged exercises, such as marathons, sports drinks that contain extra minerals and electrolytes might help replenish what is lost through sweat.
In hot or humid weather, you may sweat more and need to drink more water. You can also lose moisture from your skin when the indoor air is heated. You may lose some water at altitudes greater than 2,500 metres (8,200 feet). This is due to increased urination and faster breathing. A three-hour flight can result in about 1.5 litres of water loss.
Illness or health conditions
Keep your body hydrated if you have an illness such as fever, vomiting or diarrhoea that causes your body to lose water. Water intake is also necessary for certain conditions, such as bladder infections and kidney stones. A person with heart failure and certain kidney, liver and adrenal disorders may need to limit their water intake. You should consult your doctor regarding the limits of daily intake of water.
Pregnancy or breastfeeding
Women during their pregnancy or breastfeeding should stay hydrated at all times. Hydration is particularly essential during this period as breast milk production requires a high fluid intake on the part of the mother.
In general, the body requires more water added to the diet when the person is on a high protein diet or a high fibre diet, as fluids help prevent constipation.
It is best to keep water handy and always carry a water bottle. Instead of just plain water, you can try squeezing a lemon, lime or orange into the water for variety. If you prefer to drink more tea or coffee, try replacing some with a glass of water.