Dehydration refers to the loss of fluids, specifically water, in the body. When the body doesn’t have enough fluid to carry out its normal functions, there can be serious consequences. Since are bodies are more than 2/3 water, we need a lot of water to run on. Our body signals us with thirst. That means we need to drink something to replenish ou fluids to keep us ‘afloat’.
Causes of dehydration are varied and do often include gastrointestinal illnesses such as vomiting and diarrhea. When a person has even a mild stomach ‘bug’, that is why they are advised to drink as many fluids as they can handle. It is necessary that they replenish what is lost because even mild dehydration can make a person feel miserable.
Other causes of dehydration can include, but are not limited to:
- Lacrimation (excessive crying),
- Hyperthermia (Sunstroke),
- Increased urination,
- Burns (specifically of the third-degree),
- Alcohol consumption,
- Infectious diseases like Gastroenteritis and cholera,
- Fasting, etc.
Dehydration has a variety of symptoms. Usually people report headaches that feel similar to those during a hangover. Others mention muscle cramps, decreased blood pressure or hypotension, dizziness and/or fainting. There is also difficulty with vision. Some people say they see ‘snow’ in all or part of their visual field. It may look like a static or actual snow in front of their eyes.
Symptoms become noticeable when as little as 2% of bodily fluids are lost but can and will worsen when more fluid loss occurs. As dehydration becomes more problematic, symptoms become more significant and can cause more harm to the body and can include:
- Dry and/or sticky mouth,
- Low to no urine output, (urine that you do produce appears dark yellow to brownish-tinged)
- Sunken eyes and fontanelles (the soft spots in a baby’s head),
- Shock, etc.
Obviously, you should take dehydration seriously and seek medical attention if it is severe (i.e. you can’t stand or urinate). Dehydration should be treated, not ignored. The most effective treatment for dehydration is to replace lost fluids. Of course how to achieve that depends largely on several factors – your age, the severity of your dehydration and the cause of the dehydration.
It is best to drink an oral rehydration solution such as Pedialyte (it’s good for children and adults). Of course, many pharmacies and supermarkets carry their own brands. They have nutrients and minerals that help you replace those you’ve lost. Water is also a good substance to drink. Ginger drinks and decaffeinated products will soothe your stomach. Caffeine is generally not good. It is a diuretic and will cause you to lose more fluid which is not what you need at this time.
Salty foods, mucous-producing foods such as dairy products like milk, sodas, fruit juices and gelatin products are also to be avoided until you feel better. Some of these items don’t relieve dehydration and can actually relieve your body of fluid, in essence making the dehydration worse.
To prevent yourself from becoming dehydrated going forward, it’s best to consume plenty of fruits and vegetables. Why? They are high in water content. It’s also wise to drink before you get thirsty especially if you are exercising. Your urine should be clear and watery. If you produce anything darker or thicker than that, then you should increase your fluid intake.
When it’s hot and humid, you must also drink more water. Dress appropriately for the weather. Use layers to take off clothing when you’re hot or put more on when you’re cool. Keep yourself well hydrated during illness and even before you get sick – when you feel an illness coming on.
If you learn to listen to your body and keep your fluid intake high, you won’t have to suffer the discomfort of dehydration. These tips are a great guideline to keep you well hydrated and healthy!