Dehydration

Dehydration

Definition

Dehydration is the lose of more fluid than you take in. It makes it hard or even impossible for your body to work as it should. Drinking fluids can help mild dehydration. Severe dehydration needs immediate medical care.

Causes

To work properly, the body requires a certain amount of fluid and other elements, called electrolytes. Water is lost through normal body function like sweat, urine, bowel movements, and breathing. Drinking and eating helps to replace these fluids and electrolytes. Dehydration can occur if there is excess loss of fluids, poor intake of fluids, or a combination of both.

Severe diarrhea and vomiting is the most common cause of dehydration in young children. Older adults have a lower amount of water in their bodies. Medical conditions or medicine can further lower fluids in their bodies.

Risk Factors

Dehydration is more common in young children and older adults.

Other factors that may increase the chances of dehydration:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • High fever
  • Exposure to the heat and sun
  • Excessive exercise or sweating such as during athletic games
  • Living in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • Medications, including diuretics and laxatives
  • Urinating more often
  • Reduced fluid intake due to certain conditions such as movement problems, mental health or memory problems, and decreased ability to perceive thirst
  • Fluid imbalance caused by certain conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, burns, and infection

Symptoms

Symptoms vary depending on the degree of dehydration. Symptoms may include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Limited tear production
  • Thirst
  • Weakness
  • Decreased urination
  • Concentrated urine—darker color, stronger odor
  • Wrinkled skin or dry skin
  • Parched, cracked lips
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Fever
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Fast breathing
  • Weight loss
  • In infants, sunken soft spot in the skull or no wet diapers for 3 or more hours

Soft Spot in Infant Skull

Infant Soft Spot
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Dehydration can be extremely serious and life threatening. It may require immediate medical care.

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Urine and blood tests may be done to look for cause of infection.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to replace the fluids in the body. A cause will also be treated if it is known.

Treatment may include:

Fluid Replacement

Mild or moderate dehydration can be treated by taking in more fluids. This may be done through:

  • Small amounts of oral rehydration solution throughout the day.
  • Plain water or salty liquids like broth for adults.

Some drinks like alcohol and caffeinated drinks should be avoided. They can increase fluid loss.

IV fluids will be needed for severe dehydration. It will rapidly replace fluids.

Medicine may be given if vomiting or diarrhea are causing severe fluid loss.

Prevention

To help reduce the chances of dehydration:

  • Drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluids throughout the day.
  • Drink in small sips throughout the day if you are sick.
  • Drink fluids regularly while exercising or when outdoors on a hot day. Stop often for fluid breaks.

RESOURCES:

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
https://www.familydoctor.org
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
https://www.healthychildren.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca

References:

Dehydration and hypovolemia in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed January 26, 2021.
Dehydration and hypovolemia in infants and children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed January 26, 2021.
Rehydration therapy in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed January 26, 2021.
Last reviewed November 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardNicole S. Meregian, PA
Last Updated: 1/26/2021

EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at healthlibrarysupport@ebsco.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.

Home |Terms and Conditions |Concerned About Privacy? |Accessibility |Careers |For Employers and Medical Plan Providers

You may also be looking for: CVS/pharmacy | MinuteClinic | Specialty Pharmacy | SilverScript | Accordant