Our body is around 70 percent water. It has an in-built water management system that prompts us via thirst to increase the fluid intake when required. And no one can survive without it. We lose water through various means: breathing, sweating, etc.. Hence, we need to replenish this loss by drinking more fluids.
A drop in our bodily water levels can lead to dehydration. While dehydration is common and can be easily reversed by increasing our fluid intake, severe cases may need medical attention.
In this section, we will be discussing, in detail, dehydration causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention methods. Let us begin by understanding some common symptoms of dehydration.
Usually, the initial symptoms of dehydration are thirst, dark and pungent urine, and a decrease in urine. The colour of urine is one of the best indicators of one’s hydration levels. Clear urine means the body is well-hydrated, whereas darker urine indicates dehydration. However, in older people, dehydration shows no symptoms of thirst.
If these symptoms of dehydration go untreated, the person can start experiencing the following:
In the case of severe dehydration, where an individual loses 10-15% of their body water, the following symptoms are apparent:
Lack of sweating
Increased heart rate
Additionally, the dehydration symptoms in children and babies can be different from adults. These include:
A sunken fontanel (a soft spot on top of the baby’s head)
Dry tongue and mouth
No tears when crying
No wet diaper for three or more hours
Parents should consult a doctor immediately before the condition becomes severe.
While the basic cause of dehydration is the lack of adequate water consumption, there are several other factors as well. Some of these are:
Dehydration, as stated earlier, is common and can occur in any person. However, people who are most likely to suffer from dehydration are as follows:
People who often travel/live at higher altitudes
People suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney issues, cystic fibrosis, and adrenal gland disorders
Infants and toddlers, mostly due to vomiting and diarrhoea
If this condition becomes severe, dehydration can lead to some serious health concerns.
Dehydration, when left unchecked, can lead to severe health issues such as:
Before recommending any treatment or medication, the doctor will examine your symptoms. They might ask you about your medical history and check your heart rate and blood pressure. Having low blood pressure and a rapid heart rate are definite signs of dehydration.
Additionally, doctors may ask you to get a blood test to check the electrolyte levels in your body. This helps determine fluid loss and creatinine levels. Further, the blood test results help the doctor understand your kidney functions and the severity of dehydration.
Some doctors may also ask you to undergo urinalysis, a test that uses urine samples to check the presence of bacteria and electrolyte loss. Along with the colour of the urine and other symptoms, the doctor can confirm dehydration and start your treatment accordingly.
Dehydration treatments include rehydration strategies as well as addressing the other health conditions that are leading to this issue.
While the simplest way to avoid or overcome dehydration is to drink a lot of water, for people suffering from diarrhoea or vomiting, this is not possible. Thus, rehydration is done by way of intravenous (IV) fluids. Here, a small IV tube is inserted into the vein on the arm. It is a solution comprising water and electrolytes that rehydrates the body.
For people who can drink, it is recommended to increase the intake of electrolyte-based fluids. Over-the-counter oral rehydration solutions (ORS) are quite effective in treating dehydration.
In case electrolyte-based drinks are unavailable, you can make one at home using:
½ teaspoon of salt
Six teaspoons of sugar
One litre water
Ensure that you are using these accurate measurements as too much sugar or salt can have adverse effects on the body. Additionally, herbs are known to be an effective home remedy for dehydration. These include:
It is a great rehydrating agent and destressing herb. Just add 2-3 dried chamomile flowers in a cup of hot water and let it soak in for 10-15 minutes. Drink this mixture 2-3 times a day when suffering from dehydration.
Elderflower helps reduce the body temperature, making it an excellent summer home remedy. Crush it into a fine powder and consume 2-3 teaspoons of it with water twice a day to recover from dehydration.
It helps retain body fluids, thus making it a great home remedy for dehydration. You can use asparagus in various salads and vegetables during your meal plans.
Another effective home remedy for dehydration is willow bark. The inner of the willow tree possesses medicinal properties that can cure headaches caused due to dehydration. It also helps reduce stomach cramps, pain, and inflammation, further keeping the body cool.
Also known as mulethi, is a common Indian household herb. It helps cool the body temperature and prevents heat stroke, dehydration, and fatigue.
Here are a few things that you can do to avoid dehydration.
When you are sick, it is advisable to increase your fluid intake. If you are unable to retain the liquids in the body, seek medical attention immediately.
Remember to drink water before exercising or playing a sport and at regular intervals. Post-session, you can drink an electrolyte-based fluid to restore your energy and hydration levels.
Light Dress in light-coloured clothing during summers as darker clothes absorb more heat, forcing your body use more water to regulate its temperature.
In simple terms, dehydration happens when the water levels in your body decrease. It can be due to the hot weather, other health conditions, your lifestyle, or simply because you are drinking less than adequate water. While you can recover from dehydration quickly by increasing your fluid intake, it can lead to severe health concerns if left unchecked. If and when that happens, it is best to get medical attention immediately.
Health issues can disrupt your life without warning and can lead to hospitalisation as well. Therefore, it is best to be prepared with an adequate health insurance plan that covers the treatment and hospitalisation expenses whenever needed.