It might be common knowledge, but still important enough to mention — the best way to prevent dehydration is to drink plenty of fluids as you go about activities throughout the day, before you feel thirsty. But sometimes it's easy to forget about water intake when you’re busy or in the middle of a lot of action. Or, maybe you don’t always have a reusable water bottle to keep water close at hand. If your plans for the day change, suddenly you can be out and about without a sip of water in sight — and that’s how you can get dehydrated. Keeping a bottle for easy access to water can be enough to help prevent those scenarios.
Who's At Risk?
Certain people are more susceptible to dehydration, though anyone can experience it. However, people that are recovering from bacterial infection, gastrointestinal disorders, and other underlying health conditions have a greater chance of being dehydrated due to their already elevated loss of fluids from vomiting or diarrhea. Infants and children, similarly, are more vulnerable than adults to become dehydrated. They also are too young to communicate that they're thirsty and they can’t get a drink themselves, making it harder to know when they need hydration.
Older adults are at risk of showing signs and symptoms of dehydration for a different reason — because of a shrinking fluid reserve in the body. This natural progression is compounded by the fact that chronic illnesses in seniors like dementia and heart disease are made worse by certain medications. Another problem is the mobility factor — seniors are more likely to have issues with walking, which makes it harder for them to get a drink when they feel thirsty.
People with diabetes are also at a greater risk for dehydration. The condition causes high glucose levels in the body, which significantly decreases body water levels.
Your risk of dehydration can also be impacted by your environment. For people that exercise or work outside on a regular basis, hot and humid climates can cause your body to lose fluids through excessive sweating. When you combine intense movement with a hot and steamy environment, your body temperature increases because the sweat can't evaporate and cool you off as quickly, leading to an even greater loss of fluids.
Whatever the scenario, you should be prepared for anything, including being able to recognize signs and symptoms of dehydration and how to treat it. When you can spot the warning signs, you'll be able to use these tips to manage the symptoms for the least amount of discomfort. If you're wondering how to treat dehydration, we've outlined everything you need to know about signs, symptoms, and treatments:
What are the Signs of Dehydration?
The signs and symptoms of dehydration are easy to spot when you know what you're looking for. According to experts from WebMD, the signs of severe dehydration include dizziness, rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, dry skin, dark colored urine, or not urinating at all. You might also experience fainting, muscle cramps, headaches, and fatigue. In extreme circumstances, the dizziness might be so intense that it causes nausea, which can lead to vomiting if severe.
Severe dehydration can lead to serious complications such as heat exhaustion or life-threatening heat stroke, urinary and kidney problems, seizures, and low blood volume. The loss of electrolytes such as potassium and sodium causes a disruption in the nervous system, resulting in involuntary muscle contractions and loss of consciousness.
Signs of Dehydration in Adults/Kids/Babies
Compared to adults, signs of dehydration can present differently in infants and kids. Since they might be too young to communicate how they're feeling, it's important to stay alert to these signs. For one, dehydrated children or babies won't want to play as much due to fatigue. They also will urinate less frequently or not at all; other warning signs are a dry, parched mouth and no tears when crying. Severe dehydration in kids and babies also causes fussy behavior and excessive sleeping. They also will have sunken eyes, wrinkled skin, and cool, discolored hands and feet.
How To Treat Dehydration in Babies and Children
Medical experts from WebMD recommend administering fluids to dehydrated children in frequent, small sips, which will prevent nausea. This is especially important if the child or infant has been vomiting. When replacing fluids, use a combination of Pedialyte and clear soups, not just water. To increase their water or fluid intake even more, you could also give them popsicles, ice chips, and cereal with milk, depending on the age. For newborns that are breastfeeding, the mother should nurse more often until the warning signs are resolved.
How To Treat Dehydration in Adults
For adults with dehydration, the goal is to return fluid levels to normal. Clear fluids are the best option for replenishing hydration — clear broths, water, ice cubes, ice pops, or sports drinks with electrolytes should be consumed frequently and in small amounts to mitigate nausea. Try to avoid any drinks containing caffeine, which is a dietetic that leads to more urination and loss of fluids. For those recovering from an illness that caused dehydration, try to eat fruits and vegetables that have a high amount of water. In extreme circumstances, IV fluid hydration is necessary to instantly replace fluids, allowing you to feel better as soon as possible. The intravenous fluids typically contain different electrolytes such as potassium, glucose, and sodium.
Dehydration Prevention For Adults
Who wants to be dehydrated? There are several preventative measures adults can take to avoid risking dehydration. Start by being aware of fluid loss, particularly in hot climates under the full sun. Pay attention to water loss when sweating profusely and urinating frequently, and always drink additional water on top of your regular intake to replace the loss of fluids.
For a more accurate reading of your hydration level, you can calculate your sweat rate by comparing your body weight before and after your exercise session. Here’s the formula:
Sweating rate = Pre-exercise body weight - Post-exercise body weight + Fluid intake - Urine volume/Exercise time and hours.
If you have an active lifestyle or work outside in hot climates, remember to bring an insulated water bottle wherever you go, especially if you're going to be gone for several hours and engaging in high impact exercise or activities.
For convenient hydration when riding a bike or operating machinery, a drinking pack is an easy way to access water on the go. Another way to prevent dehydration, especially in hotter climates, is to try to only go outside during cooler parts of the day such as early morning or evening. Also try to wear cool, light-colored clothing with lots of airflow. As an additional measure, you can balance starchy foods with an equal amount of clear soups and drinks. The same preventative measures can be used with kids and babies. Just like adults, it's important that they have access to plenty of fluids throughout the day.
Whether you're treating or preventing dehydration, there are many ways to quickly push through fluids and balance the body's water content. If you have any of the signs or symptoms of dehydration, be sure to consult a qualified healthcare practitioner.