What is Dehydration
Dehydration is a common condition that can affect anyone. Although it is reversible, it is also very easily overlooked, especially for mild and moderate cases where symptoms can be mistaken for other conditions. The problem with dehydration is that once the condition becomes severe, it can even be life-threatening if not treated immediately. Understanding the risks, causes and symptoms of this issue will help minimize and prevent the dangers of dehydration.
What is Dehydration?
Dehydration is the state wherein the body loses more water than it takes in. The human body relies heavily on fluids to keep hydrated and function properly. In fact, as much as 75% of our body weight is composed of water, most of which is stored in the cells. A normal balance of fluids in the body allows cells to work more efficiently and keep the organs properly hydrated. Water also helps regulate body temperature to keep us cool and comfortable.
How Do We Lose Water?
The human body loses water regularly through sweat, respiration, urine, bowel movements, diarrhea, and bloody diarrhea . Normally, water levels in the body are replenished by simply drinking water and juices, and eating water-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables. As long as there is sufficient intake of fluids, dehydration should not become a problem. In the case of diarrhea and bloody diarrhea it is wise to drink water every time you use the bathroom.
What Are the Dangers of Dehydration?
Dehydration in its mildest form causes thirst and irritability. It may also lead to general weakness, sleepiness and nausea. The heart rate begins to increase and skin may appear flushed. There may also be a decrease in the production of urine. At this stage, it may become difficult to focus and concentrating on performing a simple task may seem challenging. Skin may also feel dry and rough.
Moderate cases of dehydration can lead to headaches and a feeling of dizziness. Some individuals may even feel tingling in their hands, arms, legs and feet. It may become more difficult to focus on objects and even objects nearby may appear blurry. It may also become more difficult to walk and speech may be slurred. Urinating may be painful and swallowing will become increasingly difficult, especially since the tongue might begin to swell. Skin may also turn a bluish tint and appear wrinkly. It may also lose elasticity. Urine may appear dark yellow.
In severe cases of dehydration, a person may suffer from delirium, loss of consciousness, fever and physical and mental weakness. Moving and speaking may become impossible, and there may be no output of urine. Blood pressure becomes dangerously low and there may be rapid breathing and increased heart rate. If fluid loss is over 15% of normal fluid levels, the organs can begin to shut down and death becomes a very real possibility.
Who is At Risk of Dehydration?
Anyone who does not drink enough water can become dehydrated. However, those who are at higher risk are people who exercise heavily, have a medical condition, perform physical labor and those who are exposed to the elements. The need for rehydration becomes greater as the temperature increases since the body loses a good amount of water through perspiration. Note, however that drinking enough water is still recommended even in cold weather since the body still loses fluids through breathing and urination. Young children, the elderly and those who are sick are also at higher risk of dehydration, so careful monitoring of their fluid intake must be done.
When to Seek Medical Attention
Mild cases of dehydration may respond positively with sufficient water intake. If you feel thirsty, tired and irritable, drink water or a sports drink, such as Gatorade. If symptoms disappear after a few minutes, there is likely nothing to worry about. However, if symptoms persist or worsen, see a doctor immediately or call 911. Do not attempt to operate a vehicle when moderately or severely dehydrated. Instead, have someone assist you so you receive medical attention right away. If anyone is suffering from dehydration, do not procrastinate and get medical help as quickly as possible.