Dehydration - Symptoms, Causes, Risk and Prevention
Body dehydration symptoms occur when you lose more fluid than you take in. In such cases, the body doesn't have enough water to carry out its functions normally. This necessitates that you replace the loss of fluids to control or prevent dehydration. And while any normal and healthy human being can become dehydrated, young children and older adults are at a higher risk.
What are Dehydration Symptoms?
Some may think that feeling excessively thirsty may be one of the first signs of dehydration. But it is not necessarily so. Many people don't even feel thirsty until after becoming dehydrated. This is why they say that you need to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated, especially during extremely hot weather.
Dehydration Symptoms by Age
Children experience more severe dehydration symptoms than adults. Some of the most common dehydration symptoms in children include:
- Mouth or tongue dryness
- Drying up of tears
- In infants, no wet diapers for as long as 3 hours
- Sunken cheeks
- Soft spot on top of the skull
- Sunken eyes
In adults, the dehydration symptoms are as follows:
- Feeling extremely thirsty
- Seldom urination
- Dark urine
- Feeling dizzy
It is advisable to see a doctor if you have been suffering from diarrhoea for more than 24 hours and are unable to retain fluids in your body.
Causes of Dehydration
Many a time, dehydration may occur for very simple reasons, like not drinking enough water. But there are other more serious causes that may result in dehydration symptoms. These are as follows:
- Diarrhoea: Sudden onset of severe and acute diarrhoea can result in severe fluid loss, including water and electrolytes, in a very short span of time. On top of this, if you are also vomiting, then it means more loss of fluids and minerals. This is bound to lead to dehydration.
- Fever: High fever is usually accompanied by dehydration. If you are also vomiting and suffering from diarrhoea along with the fever, then the problem of dehydration might worsen.
- Profuse sweating: Sweating is another way in which the body loses water along with ejecting toxins. If you are sweating too much and not drinking enough water to replace the lost fluid, then you might get dehydrated. This is hastened in very hot and humid weather.
- Excessive urination: Uncontrolled or undiagnosed diabetes may lead to an increase in the frequency of urination. This results in a loss of more fluids than the body should eject. Also, there are certain medications, like those used to control blood pressure, that also heighten the frequency of urination, resulting in dehydration.
Anyone can start showing dehydration symptoms. But certain groups of people are at a higher risk.
Children and Infants
This is one category of people that experience severe dehydration symptoms. They are more prone to suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting, which is why the chances of getting dehydrated are higher. The fact that they have a higher surface-to-volume area also results in a higher loss of fluids from fever and burns. Because infants can't communicate clearly when they are thirsty, they spend long hours staying dehydrated.
With age, the body's fluid reserve shrinks. Your sense of thirst and ability to conserve water in your body also goes down. The problem heightens if you suffer from chronic illnesses like dementia or diabetes, or if you are on certain medications that cause body dehydration symptoms. In some elderly adults, mobility also becomes restricted, which means they can't get up and fetch water for themselves whenever they like.
Chronically ill Adults
People with undiagnosed or uncontrolled diabetes are at a very high risk of being dehydrated. Kidney diseases can also increase this risk. If your kidneys are affected, chances are that you will not have the urge to eat or drink, which has a direct impact on the fluid content in your body.
People Exposed to Heat
People who work outside in very hot and humid conditions can get severely sick and become dehydrated very quickly. The humidity in the air doesn't allow the sweat to evaporate and the body to cool down quickly. This results in an increased body temperature, which demands more fluids stored in the body.
Prevention of Dehydration
Dehydration symptoms are very much treatable and controllable. You can easily prevent becoming dehydrated by drinking plenty of water and fluids and consuming foods rich in water content. A few simple things you can do in addition to drinking water are as follows:
- Be aware of the symptoms of dehydration and pay attention to them.
- Drink water regularly, ideally before you start feeling thirsty.
- If you exert yourself too much physically, like during a workout, make sure to drink the right amount of fluids before, during, and after exercise.
- Keep checking the colour of your urine when you feel like you might be experiencing body dehydration symptoms.
- Don't limit your water intake during the day; the bodily fluid requirements vary from one person to another, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
- Increase your fluid intake during hot summers and humid weather.
- Get yourself checked to assess your risk for dehydration.
- Supplement your diet with water-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables.
- Add electrolyte supplements to your daily routine if you feel the need.
- If need be, set yourself fixed hours to drink water throughout the day.
Remember that dehydration symptoms may come and go. But if they are not checked and treated, they may result in severe damage to your body.