Dehydration or hypohydration occurs when a loss of fluids exceeds fluid intake. Even a minor change in fluid concentrations can result in dehydration. It is, therefore, necessary to drink water as you lose it. When dehydrated, the human body does not function at its best and may be at risk for life-threatening diseases. Anyone can become dehydrated, but older people and young children are most susceptible.
Your breath may be telling you that your body is running low on water. Saliva has antibacterial properties, but lack of hydration can deter your body from producing enough of it. With insufficient saliva in the mouth, bacterial overgrowth is possible, and as a side effect, smelly breath. Often, dehydration is the cause of bad breath.
The color of your urine can indicate whether you are dehydrated. When you are adequately hydrated, your body discharges clear urine with a tinge of yellow. However, concentrated, dark urine is a telling sign of dehydration. At a loss of 3% body fluid, the urine becomes prominently yellow. At 5%, urine is chardonnay-colored. Any more than this is classified as severe dehydration and urine could be orange in color. It is important to note that dark yellow urine can also be a sign of liver conditions such as hepatitis A.
With the body losing water, essential salts such as potassium and sodium also get lost, which alters the chemical makeup of the blood. Loss of water in the brain tissues causes the brain to shrink and move away from the skull, triggering a reaction in the pain receptors located in the meninges. The severity of dehydration headaches depends on the amount of water lost.
Researchers have proved that when athletes become exhausted,it is primarily because of the build-up of lactic acid and shut down of energy production from glucose. This condition is also true average individuals who undertake rigorous exercise. Without the right amount of water, your body can experience muscle soreness. A 10% performance level drop is quite reasonable in people dealing with dehydration. Therefore, one must stay hydrated throughout the day to optimize performance. Doctors recommend ample rest along with ample intake of fluid intake to replenish fluids.
Crying without tears can be a symptom of dehydration. This can be an obvious sign in children, as can a lack of wet diapers. Individuals can also notice dry mucous membranes — the tongue and inside the mouth. In addition to a lack of tears, the eyes may also appear a bit sunken.
Well-hydrated skin will snap back quickly when gently pinched. A person who is dehydrated will have compromised turgor, which means the skin remains elevated for a moment and returns to normal slowly. A turgor test is common when a doctor attempts to determine whether a patient is dehydrated.
Fluids play a vital role in body temperature regulation; the risk of developing heat stroke, due to sudden exposure to hot weather, is increased in dehydrated individuals. Typically, the body overheats after physical exertion, and profuse sweating occurs. Sweating without regularly replenishing liquids can quickly result in dehydration.
An imbalance of electrolytes affects muscle function. Sodium and potassium help our muscles contract, and dehydration can cause an imbalance in these ions, resulting in muscle spasms. In some cases, muscle spasms can even result in cramps when the muscles contract for an extended period. Typically, muscle cramping caused by dehydration occurs in the calf or sides, which can be extremely painful. Drinking plenty of electrolyte-rich liquids can ease this symptom.
Water is vital for healthy digestion and bowel movements. It moves the food we eat forward and processes the waste. Apart from this, water makes the intestinal walls soft and malleable. When we do not drink enough water, the colon loses its flexibility and the stool becomes hard and painful to pass. Chronic dehydration is often responsible for chronic constipation. The colon absorbs the water it needs from food waste, resulting in dry, hard stool.
Lightheadedness and dizziness are associated with dehydration when low blood pressure and electrolyte imbalances are severe enough. Kids and toddlers experiencing dehydration tend to be fussy and irritable. In extreme cases, dehydration results in mental confusion and even loss of consciousness. Anyone who experiences these symptoms for an extended period should rehydrate immediately with fluids and electrolytes and seek medical care.
Learn more about what causes dehydration and how to prevent it on the following pages.
A person may become dehydrated for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it is something or obvious simple like not drinking enough water, not eating enough salt, or exercising without hydrating.
Other potential causes are issues that remove fluids from the body, such as diarrhea and vomiting. Fevers with sweating may also dehydrate the body. Medications can also be responsible if they trigger increased urination. Drinking water is the clear fix for dehydration, but there are some factors to consider.
When the body becomes dehydrated, it is often missing electrolytes at the same time. This is particularly true if the cause is diarrhea, vomiting, or strenuous exercise. Oral rehydration solutions contain more electrolytes than most options, so they are extremely effective in managing dehydration. Commercially, they are usually available as salts or powders that are mixed with water.
While it can be tempting to chug water when feeling dehydrated, drinking slowly is usually the best choice. Consuming too much water can flush even more electrolytes from the body, worsening the feelings of dehydration.
Additionally, drinking too quickly may trigger vomiting. Some people feel bloated after drinking a large amount of fluids, which then discourages them from drinking more throughout the day.
Pure fluids are not the only way to recover from dehydration. Since beating dehydration requires electrolytes and fluids, foods that contain lots of water are often exactly what the body needs.
Fruits and vegetables should be the go-tos. Some of the best choices include cucumbers, iceberg lettuce, green peppers, tomatoes, and watermelon. These choices boast a water content of over 90%.
Many people believe that they only need to drink when they feel thirsty, but this is not entirely accurate. Thirst is actually one of the worst ways to determine when the body needs fluids. Factors like age, body type, and fitness level can mean that a person does not feel thirsty until they are already dehydrated.
To maintain proper hydration, consume fluids regularly throughout the day through whatever methods are most sustainable. To prevent overhydration, make sure to get plenty of electrolytes and stop drinking immediately if negative symptoms develop.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.