Dehydration: Causes, Symptoms and Its Prevention

Dehydration
Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 

What is Dehydration?

Dehydration comes about when the body loses more fluid than that which you imbibe during the day causing the body lack sufficient water and other fluids to enable it perform its regular functions well. You may become dehydrated if you fail to replace the lost body fluids.

What Causes Dehydration?

Dehydration occurs when your system dries up and there are various reasons as to why this happens. Been too busy, sick or lacking safe drinking water while travelling, camping or hiking can result to this condition.

The following are other causes of dehydration:

  • Vomiting and Diarrhea: Severe diarrhea which occurs unexpectedly and forcefully can result in a great loss of water as well as electrolytes within a short spell. This is worsened by vomiting because you will lose* additional fluids and minerals. Infants and children are particularly at a greater risk of being dehydrated.
  • Too Much Sweating: When you engage in vigorous activity, the body loses water through sweat and if you do not take in fluids you may become dehydrated. The amount of sweat and the fluid you lose* increases* in hot and humid weather. However, if you do not replace lost fluids in winter, you can still become dehydrated. Pre-teens and teens who take part in sports are the most vulnerable lot. This is because their body weight is generally lower than that of adults and also they may not be able to detect the warning signals of dehydration.
  • Fever: Generally, you become much more dehydrated when you have high fever and you tend to lose* more fluids if you have a combination of fever, diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Increased Urination: In most cases, this occurs when diabetes mellitus, a condition which affects the way blood sugar is used by your body, is not diagnosed or managed. Increased thirst and urination is normally caused by this type of diabetes. Diabetes insipidus is another type of diabetes which is characterized by intense thirst and frequent urination and is caused by a hormonal syndrome which makes your kidneys incapable of conserving water. Alcohol and certain medications like antihistamines, diuretics, blood pressure drugs as well as a number of psychiatric medications can cause dehydration since they are known to induce abnormal sweating or urination in the victims.

What are the Symptoms of Dehydration?

The below listed are mild to moderate symptoms of dehydration:

  • Parched and sticky mouth
  • Lack of sleep or fatigue – with children becoming unusually less* active
  • Being thirsty
  • Reduced* urine output – older children and teens not urinating for eight hours and infants for three hours
  • Few or no teardrops when crying
  • Parched skin
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Giddiness

Complications Associated with Dehydration

Dehydration can result in severe complications such as:

  • Heat Damage: Vigorous exercise and excessive perspiration without taking adequate fluids may result in heat damage ranging from minor heat cramps and heat exhaustion to the fatal heatstroke
  • Cerebral Edema (Swelling of the Brain): At times, after a period of dehydration when you are taking in fluids again, the body tries to suck into your cells excessive water, which can cause a number of cells to swell and burst. This can have serious consequences when the brain cells are affected
  • Seizures: Electrolytes like sodium and potassium facilitate the transmission of electrical signals between the cells. Electrolyte imbalance can therefore cause a mix up with the usual electrical messages, leading to uncontrolled muscle contractions and at times unconsciousness
  • Hypovolemic or Low Blood Volume Shock: This is among the most severe and occasionally grave complications of dehydration and it takes place when low blood volume causes a decrease* in blood pressure as well as the amount of oxygen in your body
  • Kidney Failure: This is a life-threatening complication which occurs as a result of failure of the kidneys to expel surplus fluids and waste from your blood
  • Coma and Death: Severe dehydration can lead to death if not attended to properly and on time

How is Dehydration Diagnosed?

Dehydration can easily be diagnosed as the effects are visible. A person who is dehydrated exhibits such symptoms as sunken eyes, little or no urine at all; the skin lacks the normal elasticity when pinched. Dehydrations also cause low blood pressure in the victim especially during movement from one position to the other, a higher pulse rate and a reduction* in the flow of blood to the extreme parts of the body.

Blood tests and urinalysis are also used to determine the level of dehydration in individuals.
To determine the degree of dehydration, you may have other tests, such as urinalysis and blood test.

How is Dehydration Treated?

The best way to deal with dehydration is simply to replace the fluid and the electrolytes the body may have lost. However, it is important to consider age before determining the best method to treat* the victim. Severity and causes are equally important factors to consider when treating victims with this condition.

What Expert/U.S Health Institute (Dehydration) Is Saying About Dehydration?

Experts echo the use of plenty of fluids as the best way to replace what the body may have expanded in terms of electrolytes and body fluid. Eating foods with high water contents can also help remedy the condition. It is also important to seek immediate medical attention especially when you notice symptoms associated with dehydration in children and infants. Dehydration has been known to cause most deaths in minors especially so when symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea occur.

What are the Prognosis and Preventions?

It is believed that the best way to deal with dehydration is to discover it faster; failure to which, it can result in very severe complications including death, seizures and irreversible brain damage to the victim. In case you observe symptoms like dizziness, confusion, light-headedness and lethargy in your child or any person, ensure to seek medical assistance with immediate effect.

To ensure that this doesn’t occur, it is advisable for you to take in plenty of fluids on a daily basis. When you are on a workout or when the weather is extremely hot it is important that you drink more fluids.

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Author

Expert Author : Lisiana Carter (Consumer Health Digest)

Lisiana Carter has been a freelance health writer for over ten years having written books, blogs and articles. She is the author of a number of websites and teaches people how to enter the freelance writing field.