How to Tell If You Are Dehydrated And What to Do About It

Dehydration sometimes refers to the sudden loss of water in the body. More commonly, it refers to when you are not getting the right amount of fluids or water that your body needs to function. In most cases, dehydration can be resolved by increasing your intake of water or fluids. However, in severe cases of dehydration, the only way to resolve it is by seeking medical attention. 

What Happens When You Are Dehydrated?

When you are dehydrated, your body is not able to function the way that it should. Your body will feel either thirsty or hungry when in actuality it is screaming for hydration. 

There are many reasons why a person becomes dehydrated, including the following:

  • Illness or infection that causes vomiting or diarrhea. That’s why medical professionals will tell you to get plenty of fluids when you are sick. 
  • Not eating or drinking enough to replace the fluids that your body has lost.
  • Some medications can cause you to urinate more frequently. The more you urinate, the less fluid your body is retaining, which causes dehydration. 
  • Urinating more frequently due to diabetes.
  • Other forms of fluid loss such as sweating.

Some people are more at risk for dehydration than others. It is especially dangerous for infants and young children, uncontrollable illnesses such as diabetes, and older adults incapable of self-care or who have limited mobility.

How to Tell When You Are Dehydrated

There are many mild and severe dehydration symptoms. It is important to know the difference between the mild signs of dehydration and the severe symptoms, because the aforementioned severe dehydration symptoms require medical attention. 

Are dehydration symptoms the same in children as adults?

Detecting dehydration in young children, toddlers and infants can be difficult. However, some telltale signs may indicate your child is dehydrated. Some of these signs are similar to signs of dehydration in adults. 

Signs include the following:

  • Fever
  • Over three hours with a dry diaper
  • Soft spot on the top of the head
  • Dry and sticky mouth and tongue
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of energy
  • Irritability or excessive fussiness
  • sleepiness 
  • Tearless crying, sunken eyes

Younger children such as toddlers and infants may not tell you when they are hurting or where they are hurting, because they may not know or understand what is going on with their body. 

Adults are more transparent with their symptoms when they are dehydrated. Symptoms include the following:

  • Thirst 
  • Reduced or lack of urination
  • Headaches
  • Dry eyes, sunken eyes
  • Irritability, confusion
  • Feeling fatigued
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle cramps 
  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Urine is amber or dark yellow in color
  • Dry, flaky skin
  • Redness

Thirst is typically the first sign of mild dehydration. At the first sign of thirst, you should take the necessary measures to rehydrate yourself, because this is the beginning of you being dehydrated. 

Dehydration Symptoms That You Should Not Ignore

Dehydration symptoms that are a cause for concern include muscle cramps, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, sunken eyes, fainting, lack of urination or very dark urine, lack of energy, inability to keep down fluids and severe diarrhea. These symptoms are signs of severe dehydration. Unlike mild dehydration that can be reversed with drinking water, severe hydration may require you to have fluids administered intravenously (through IV).

What to Do About Dehydration

Many things can be done to reverse and prevent the onset of dehydration. Studies have proven that when it comes to dehydration, water is not the only source you can use to hydrate yourself. The daily amount of water that you should drink each day takes into account all beverages and foods that provide a source of water, such as coffee, tea, fruit or vegetables. 

What You Should Know About Drinking Water 

The first thing you should know about drinking water is how much water to drink per day. Depending on the source, most experts say that men should strive to drink 15-16 cups per day and women need about 12-13 cups per day. Other sources will tell you that eight 8-oz glasses of water each day is the amount you need to stay hydrated. However, the easiest way to tell whether you are dehydrated or have enough fluids in your body is by looking at the color of your urine. The color of your urine will tell you if you are hydrated, dehydrated or overhydrated.  

If your urine is dark yellow or amber, this means that you are mildly dehydrated. Your urine should be transparent or a pale or straw yellow color when you are hydrated. However, if your urine is clear or has a diluted appearance, it could signal overhydration. Overhydration is just as bad as dehydration: The same symptoms you experience with dehydration are felt with overhydration. Overhydration occurs when you retain water because your body is unable to get rid of the water or your water intake is greater than the amount leaving your body through your urine. 

Beverages That Hydrate You Better Than Water

When you are on the brink of dehydration, drinking water may not always do the trick. Experts say that the quickest way to rehydrate yourself is by drinking a glass of milk, or by consuming an oral rehydration solution. The amount of sodium, sugar, protein and fat that is found in these products helps the body to absorb water to rehydrate the body.

Aside from water, milk and rehydration solutions, other beverages that are considered a hydrated drink include tea, coffee, sports drinks and beverages containing sugar, fat, protein, sodium and potassium. The body loses sodium and potassium through your urine when you are dehydrated. When you drink too much water in a short period of time, you are flushing out not only fluid wastes but you are flushing out needed nutrients as well.

What is the best way to keep yourself hydrated?

The best way that you can keep yourself hydrated is to have access to water at all times. This means carrying a water bottle with you wherever you go so that you can sip the water throughout the day. You should drink water before, during and after your workout. It is also recommended to drink water when you feel hungry, since you may be confusing this feeling with being thirsty. 

Another way to keep yourself hydrated is knowing what beverages you should avoid, such as alcohol and diuretics. For the most part, you can stay hydrated by just drinking water even when you are not thirsty, and eating a balanced diet that includes water enriched fruits and vegetables.

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