Dehydration

By Mariah True, PTA

What is Dehydration?

Dehydration is when someone uses or loses more fluid or water than ingested. Here are some examples of how dehydration occurs: profuse sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, and not drinking enough water. Being dehydrated makes it difficult for your body to complete its normal functions such as the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the cells in your body. Dehydration is likely to happen during the summer or in warmer weather. Therefore, we should think about how much water we are drinking when tanning, working out, or just sitting and sweating in the hot sun to prevent dehydration and a more serious heatstroke!

track star with dehydration

Dehydration affects all people not just athletes

Signs and Symptoms

One of the first signs to tell if you’re dehydrated is when you feel thirsty. Most people are already dehydrated when they start to crave water. Therefore, it is important to hydrate before you get to this point.

Common Symptoms of Dehydration:

  • Dark yellow urine
  • Dizziness, lightheaded
  • Confusion, headache, weakness
  • Fatigue, feeling tired
  • Dry mouth
  • Flushed or red skin/face
  • Chills

You may be asking yourself if you are at risk for dehydration. People of all ages and sizes are at risk, however some people tend to be more prone than others. For example, infants or young children are more likely to vomit or have severe diarrhea which leads to dehydration. Older adults are also at risk, secondary to a decreased fluid reserve, their ability to conserve water is reduced, and their sense of thirst is lessened. People who suffer from chronic illnesses or even someone with a common cold and weakened immune system are susceptible to dehydration.  A high fever can also put you at more risk of dehydration.

What happens to my body from Dehydration?

Your body reacts in a few different ways when you don’t have enough fluids to maintain normal bodily functions. About 50% – 75% of your body is made up of water, which is a lot! When you lose or don’t intake enough water, you can get dry skin, become constipated, stop sweating, urinate less, and become hungry all as a result of dehydration.

Dehydration can also affect important organs such as your brain, heart, and kidneys. If you are severely dehydrated, the blood vessels in your brain can shrink. Your heart is also affected, due to the lack of water in your blood. This leads to an increased heart rate to help your body maintain normal blood pressure. This happens because once your blood loses water your heart then has to work harder to move thicker blood throughout your body. Lastly, your kidneys hold on to urine, once again, due to the lack of water in your blood. Causing you to urinate less, when typically, a normal hydrated person urinates about six or seven times a day.

Heat Stroke

When someone has been dehydrated for an extended period of time in hot and humid conditions, they may develop heat stroke.  Heat stroke is a life threatening condition and medical attention is needed immediately.  The symptoms of heat stroke are:

  • A very high body temperature or a core body temperature of 104 degrees or higher.
  • Profuse sweating followed by no sweating at all and the skin become hot to touch and flushed.
  • Vomiting and nausea.
  • Rapid Heart rate and rapid breathing.
  • Confusion, disorientation or inability to concentrate or answer questions.
  • Severe headache or slurred speech.

If a person is having heat stroke symptoms, medical attention is needed immediately.  Until help arrives, the person’s body temperature needs to be lowered by moving them to a cooler place in the shade or air conditioning, a cool shower, application of ice or an ice bath.

Prevention

  1. Keep a record of your fluid intake
  2. Drink lots of fluids, especially water. Avoid drink with caffeine.
  3. Drink before you start to feel thirsty.
  4. Check the color of your urine (it should be a light yellow).
  5. Wear light colored clothing or dry fit clothing.
  6. Take frequent cool down breaks when working outside.
  7. Be aware of the outside temperature and humidity and limit your time in the environment.
  8. Be aware of the signs and symptoms of dehydration so your condition doesn’t lead to a heatstroke

Treatment

The treatment of dehydration is simple. Drink water or fluids that contains electrolytes to replace the liquids you lost. You can also move out of the sun into a shaded location or consider going inside to help your body cool off. Overall, the best way to avoid dehydration is by following the prevention techniques that are listed above and remember to drink lots of water!  Remember, for heat stroke you need to seek medical attention immediately and cool the person down as fast as you can.

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