The human body is mostly water. In fact 75% of our body weight is water. Dehydration occurs when we lose more water than we are taking in. We lose water every time we breathe, sweat, urinate or have a bowel movement. Since the body is always losing water, it is very important to replace this water daily. The body in the short term can rebalance the water stored in the cells to the blood vessels but this is only a short term solution. Dehydration can occur quickly and plenty of fluids need to be taken in to prevent dehydration.
Who Gets Dehydrated?
Anyone can become dehydrated. Those at greatest risk of becoming dehydrated are people who have become ill and are losing much more water than normal. This can be due to diarrhea and vomiting. The replacement of water is very important for those who are ill and even for those who are active. The more active a person the more they sweat and lose water.
What are Symptoms of Dehydration?
The beginning signs of dehydration are ways to help the body to replace or conserve the water in the body. These signs if ignored can lead to further dehydration.
Thirst: As the body becomes dehydrated the thirst mechanism kicks in making us consume more water.
Decreased Urination: As we begin to become dehydrated the body begins to slow urination to conserve the water that is in the body. Someone who is in the beginning stages of dehydration will notice a lack of urine and the urine that is excreted will be a dark yellow.
If the above signs are ignored the body will continue to become further dehydrated. Here are the more severe signs of dehydration.
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Muscle Cramps
- Decreased Sweat production or not sweating at all
- Lack of tears
Finally confusion and weakness will occur as the brain gets less blood. In the final stages of dehydration the body will go into a coma and the organs will begin to shut down. Death can occur from extreme dehydration.
What Causes Dehydration?
Dehydration is caused by the lack of water being taken in or from the excessive loss of water. In most cases it is a combination of these two situations. Common causes of dehydration include:
Diarrhea: This is the most common cause of dehydration due to the excessive amount of water leveling the body with the additional bowel movements.
Vomiting: this too is a very common cause of dehydration. It causes a twofold problem. The extra loss of fluids from the vomiting and the difficult to replace water due to the vomiting.
Sweating: This is a common cause of dehydration not only for athletes but also for people who work in a warm environment. The body can lose 16 oz of fluid in a short brisk walk. This can cause dehydration if the fluid is not quickly replaced.
Inflammatory Diseases and Conditions: Inflammatory conditions can cause one to become dehydrated due to the water in the body pooling in a particular area. For example burn victims can suffer from dehydration because the body’s water pools into the wound area.
Diabetes: A common sign of diabetes is thirst and frequent urination. These symptoms can also lead to dehydration.
Inability to Replace Water Loss: If a person does not have water available to drink or is too weak to drink than dehydration will occur.
Alternative Treatments for Dehydration
The treatment for dehydration is to replace the fluids lost. If diarrhea or vomiting have been the cause of the dehydration than over the counter medicines can be used to treat these conditions to help prevent further loss and make rehydrating easier.
The alternative methods of rehydrating the body consist of fluid replacements. It is important to increase fluid intake in small amounts at first. This will allow the body to not get ill from excessive drinking of water. Small, constant sips of water should be taken. Clear fluids should be drank and consumed to help with rehydrating the body. Clear broths, jello and sports drinks that replace electrolytes such as Gatorade and Powerade should be consumed as well.
If the mental status of a person that is dehydrated changes or they become confused or lethargic than they should be seen by a medical professional. IV fluids maybe required to replace the lost fluids.
Medical Treatments for Dehydration
The medical treatment for dehydration is simple. The water is replaced with IV fluids and urine output is monitored until it returns to normal. Other steps may need to be taken if an underlying medical condition is causing the dehydration to prevent future dehydration.