What is Dehydration

Dehydration is when there is not enough fluid or water in your body. This happens when you lose more fluids than you take in. People who are age 65 or older have a higher risk of getting dehydrated.

Dehydration can range from mild to very bad. It should be treated right away to keep it from getting very bad.

Symptoms of mild dehydration may include:

  • Thirst.
  • Dry lips.
  • Slightly dry mouth.
  • Dry, warm skin.
  • Dizziness.

Symptoms of moderate dehydration may include:

  • Very dry mouth.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Dark pee (urine). Pee may be the color of tea.
  • Your body making less pee.
  • Your eyes making fewer tears.
  • Heartbeat that is uneven or faster than normal (palpitations).
  • Headache.
  • Light-headedness, especially when you stand up from sitting.
  • Fainting (syncope).

Symptoms of very bad dehydration may include:

  • Changes in skin, such as:
    • Cold and clammy skin.
    • Blotchy (mottled) or pale skin.
    • Skin that does not quickly return to normal after being lightly pinched and let go (poor skin turgor).
  • Changes in body fluids, such as:
    • Feeling very thirsty.
    • Your eyes making fewer tears.
    • Not sweating when body temperature is high, such as in hot weather.
    • Your body making very little pee.
  • Changes in vital signs, such as:
    • Weak pulse.
    • Pulse that is more than 100 beats a minute when you are sitting still.
    • Fast breathing.
    • Low blood pressure.
  • Other changes, such as:
    • Sunken eyes.
    • Cold hands and feet.
    • Confusion.
    • Lack of energy (lethargy).
    • Trouble waking up from sleep.
    • Short-term weight loss.
    • Unconsciousness.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • If told by your doctor, drink an ORS:
    • Make an ORS by using instructions on the package.
    • Start by drinking small amounts, about ½ cup (120 mL) every 5–10 minutes.
    • Slowly drink more until you have had the amount that your doctor said to have.
  • Drink enough clear fluid to keep your pee clear or pale yellow. If you were told to drink an ORS, finish the ORS first, then start slowly drinking clear fluids. Drink fluids such as:
    • Water. Do notdrink only water by itself. Doing that can make the salt (sodium) level in your body get too low (hyponatremia).
    • Ice chips.
    • Fruit juice that you have added water to (diluted).
    • Low-calorie sports drinks.
  • Avoid:
    • Alcohol.
    • Drinks that have a lot of sugar. These include high-calorie sports drinks, fruit juice that does not have water added, and soda.
    • Caffeine.
    • Foods that are greasy or have a lot of fat or sugar.
  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your doctor.
  • Do nottake salt tablets. Doing that can make the salt level in your body get too high (hypernatremia).
  • Eat foods that have minerals (electrolytes). Examples include bananas, oranges, potatoes, tomatoes, and spinach.

Keep all follow-up visits as told by your doctor. This is important.

Contact a doctor if:

  • You have belly (abdominal) pain that:
    • Gets worse.
    • Stays in one area (localizes).
  • You have a rash.
  • You have a stiff neck.
  • You get angry or annoyed more easily than normal (irritability).
  • You are more sleepy than normal.
  • You have a harder time waking up than normal.
  • You feel:
    • Weak.
    • Dizzy.
    • Very thirsty.

Get help right away if:

  • You have symptoms of very bad dehydration.
  • You cannot drink fluids without throwing up (vomiting).
  • Your symptoms get worse with treatment.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have a very bad headache.
  • You are throwing up or having watery poop (diarrhea) and it:
    • Gets worse.
    • Does not go away.
  • You have diarrhea for more than 24 hours.
  • You have blood or something green (bile) in your throw-up.
  • You have blood in your poop (stool). This may cause poop to look black and tarry.
  • You have not peed in 6–8 hours.
  • You have peed (urinated) only a small amount of very dark pee during 6–8 hours.
  • You pass out (faint).
  • Your heart rate when you are sitting still is more than 100 beats a minute.
  • You have trouble breathing.

Dehydration in Children

Children have a higher risk for dehydration than adults.

Get help right away if:

  • Your child has symptoms of very bad dehydration.
  • Your child’s symptoms get worse with treatment.
  • Your child’s symptoms suddenly get worse.
  • Your child cannot drink fluids without throwing up (vomiting), and this lasts for more than a few hours.
  • Your child throws up often.
  • Your child has throw-up that:
    • Is forceful (projectile).
    • Has something green (bile) in it.
    • Has blood in it.
  • Your child has watery poop (diarrhea) that:
    • Is very bad.
    • Lasts for more than 48 hours.
  • Your child has blood in his or her poop (stool). This may cause poop to look black and tarry.
  • Your child has not peed (urinated) in 6–8 hours.
  • Your child has peed only a small amount of very dark pee in 6–8 hours.
  • Your child who is younger than 3 months has a temperature of 100°F (38°C) or higher.

Dehydration in Sports

During exercise, your body may not be able to maintain the fluid levels that are needed to function properly. Dehydration happens when you take in less fluid than you lose. Athletes lose fluid during exercise when they sweat and breathe. Additional fluid is lost during urination, vomiting, and diarrhea. To prevent dehydration, it is important for athletes to take in enough water and fluid to replace the fluid that they lose during exercise.

What are the causes?

Common causes of dehydration among athletes include:

  • Diarrhea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Not drinking enough fluid during strenuous exercise or during an illness.
  • Not eating enough food during strenuous exercise or during an illness.
  • Not consuming enough fluid or food after strenuous exercise.
  • Exercising in hot or humid weather.

What increases the risk?

This condition is more likely to develop in:

  • Athletes who are taking certain medicines that cause the body to lose excess fluid (diuretics).
  • Athletes who have a chronic illness, such as diabetes.
  • Young children.
  • Older adults.
  • Athletes who live at high altitudes.
  • Endurance athletes.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition may be diagnosed based on your symptoms. You may also have tests to determine how severe your dehydration is. These tests may include:

  • Urine tests.
  • Blood tests.

How is this treated?

Dehydration should be treated right away. Do notwait until dehydration becomes severe. Treatment depends on the severity of the dehydration.

Treatment for Mild Dehydration

  • Drinking plenty of water to replace the fluid you have lost.
  • Replacing minerals in your blood (electrolytes) that you may have lost.

Treatment for Moderate Dehydration

  • Consuming oral rehydration solution (ORS).

Treatment for Severe Dehydration

  • Receiving fluid through an IV tube.
  • Receiving electrolyte solution through a feeding tube that is passed through your nose and into your stomach (nasogastric tubeor NG tube).

Do nottake salt tablets. This can lead to the condition of having too much sodium in your body (hypernatremia).

How is this prevented?

  • Drink water before, during, and after physical activity, even if you do not feel thirsty. Drink small amounts of water frequently throughout sporting events. Drink more water if you are exercising in hot or humid weather or in high altitudes.
  • If you are exercising for more than an hour, consider drinking a sports drink.
  • If you are experiencing vomiting or diarrhea, avoid exercise.
  • Before and after exercise, eat plenty of foods that have a high water content. These include fruits and vegetables.

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