Dehydration can happen to anyone, but it is not something that should be taken lightly. According to the National Institutes of Health, dehydration occurs when your body lacks proper liquids and fluids because it loses more water than it takes in. Young children, older people and those with chronic illnesses have a greater risk of becoming dehydrated. If left untreated, severe dehydration can lead to death, seizures or permanent brain damage. The good news is that dehydration is easy to treat and prevent.
Symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth and feeling thirsty, but you shouldn’t rely on your thirst level to determine whether you are providing your body with the proper amount of water. Other indicators of dehydration include sleepiness, dizziness and dry skin. You may experience a headache or constipation. Another sign is lack of sweat when you are in a situation in which you should be perspiring. Little or no urination is a good indicator, especially if any urine is dark yellow or amber.
Dehydration in children and infants
Infants and children are at a greater risk for dehydration because they weigh less and turnover water and electrolytes quickly. Like with adults, dehydration occurs in babies if they take in less fluid than they get rid of through vomiting, diarrhea, fever or sweating. Look for signs like dark urine and dry mouth and lips. Also be aware if your child goes more than six hours without a wet diaper or cries without producing tears. Signs of serious dehydration include sunken eyes, sunken soft spots on your baby’s head and cold and splotchy hands and feet. Go to the emergency room if you think your baby has severe dehydration. If you think your child is slightly dehydrated, call your doctor and continue breastfeeding. He or she may suggest that you give your child an oral rehydration solution like Pedialyte.
The prognosis is usually good for people whose dehydration is tended to quickly, but it can get very serious, even life-threatening, if not treated. For mild dehydration, drink small amounts of fluids over a period of time rather than forcing down a large amount at once. While sports drinks can prevent dehydration, especially when engaging in rigorous exercise, they contain a lot of sugar and can make diarrhea worse. Severe dehydration may require hospitalization and intravenous treatment.
Make a conscious effort to drink more liquids during times of high heat. Stay hydrated while you exercise since you lose liquid when you sweat. Make high-water foods like fruits and vegetables a diet staple. Encourage people who are sick to drink fluids, especially if they are experiencing diarrhea, vomiting or have a fever. Carefully monitor anyone who is ill, but pay special attention to infants, children and older people.