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Symptoms of dehydration - effects & remedies

User profile imageDr. Daisy Dharmaraj

Dehydration

 

Dehydration refers to the condition when your body does not have the amount of water it requires to function normally. The amount of water in the human body ranges from 50-75%. The percentage of water in infants is much higher, typically around 75-78% water, dropping to 65% by one year of age. The percent of water depends on your hydration level. People feel thirsty when they have already lost around 2-3% of their body's water. Mental performance and physical coordination start to become impaired before thirst kicks in, typically around 1% dehydration.
 

Water serves multiple purposes inside the body:

·         Water is the primary building block of cells.

·         It acts as an insulator, regulating internal body temperature. This is partly because water has a high specific heat, plus the body uses perspiration and respiration to regulate temperature.

·         Water is needed to metabolize proteins and carbohydrates used as food. It is the primary component of saliva, used to digest carbohydrates and aid in swallowing food.

·         The compound lubricates joints.

·         Water insulates the brain, spinal cord, organs, and foetus. It acts as a shock absorber.

·         Water is used to flush waste and toxins from the body via urine1.

 

Symptoms of dehydration / How does one know that s/he is getting dehydrated?

When the level of dehydration is mild to moderate you may experience a few of the following.

  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Sleepiness or tiredness — children are likely to be less active than usual
  • Thirst
  • Decreased urine output
  • No wet diapers for three hours for infants
  • Few or no tears when crying
  • Dry skin
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness or light headedness

Dehydration can happen when you stop drinking water or lose large amounts of fluid through  diarrhoeavomitingsweating, or exercise. Not drinking enough fluids can cause muscle cramps. You may feel faint. Usually your body can reabsorb fluid from your blood and other body tissues. But by the time you become severely dehydrated, you no longer have enough fluid in your body to get blood to your organs, and you may go into shock, which is a life-threatening condition. Dehydration can occur in anyone of any age, but it is most dangerous for babies, small children, and older adults.

Treat children and older adults with greater caution. Call your family doctor right away if your loved one:

  • Develops severe diarrhoea, with or without vomiting or fever
  • Has bloody or black stool
  • Has had moderate diarrhoea for 24 hours or more
  • Can't keep down fluids
  • Is irritable or disoriented and much sleepier or less active than usual
  • Has any of the signs or symptoms of mild or moderate dehydration
  • Sunken eyes
  • Shrivelled and dry skin that lacks elasticity and doesn't "bounce back" when pinched into a fold
  • In infants, sunken fontanels — the soft spots on the top of a baby's head
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • No tears when crying
  • Fever
  • In the most serious cases, delirium or unconsciousness

Severe dehydration requires urgent treatment through intravenous fluids that. contain the right amounts of water, sugar and minerals. Otherwise this could lead to irreversible shock, organ damage and death.

Unfortunately, thirst isn't always a reliable gauge of the body's need for water, especially in children and older adults. A better indicator is the color of your urine: Clear or light-colored urine means you're well hydrated, whereas a dark yellow or amber color usually signals dehydration.

If you're a healthy adult, you can usually treat mild to moderate dehydration by drinking more fluids, such as water or Oral Rehydration solution. There are many available in the medical shop which contains what is prescribed by World Health organisation. The contents of these sachets need to be dissolved in drinking water and consumed.  Rice water, lime juice, are equally good.

Get immediate medical care if you develop severe signs and symptoms as mentioned above.

You can help prevent dehydration from becoming severe by carefully monitoring someone who is sick and giving fluids, such as an oral rehydration solution, at the first sign of diarrhoea, vomiting or fever and by encouraging children to drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise.

 

 

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