Sometimes, dehydration can be harmless and simply mean that you need to drink an extra glass of water; however, dehydration can become a life-threatening problem.
More than half of an adult's body composition is water. In babies and children, the composition is even greater — almost 75 percent. If your body loses water or you do not take in enough, you can become dehydrated.
Sometimes, illnesses cause dehydration. For example, people who experience vomiting, diarrhea or fever can become dehydrated. Sweating is another common cause of dehydration.
Children are highly susceptible to dehydration because of their higher body composition of water. If a child is experiencing vomiting, diarrhea, or running a high fever, they can become dehydrated very quickly.
Fortunately, we have products like Pedialyte and Gatorade that can be given by mouth, and can quickly rehydrate and replenish lost electrolytes.
The elderly are also prone to dehydration, especially if they're on a diuretic medication, otherwise known as a fluid pill. They usually take these medications for heart failure, high blood pressure, or fluid retention. This medication causes a person to urinate more, which means they're losing more water than normal. If for some reason they do not drink or eat enough or they experience vomiting or diarrhea, they can become dehydrated very quickly.
Dehydration can become dangerous because the water in your body is used by blood to constantly flush out the kidneys. If you're not taking in enough water, your kidneys aren't getting flushed and their function will start to decline. Acutely, the kidneys will start failing and toxins or unwanted metabolites will build up in your body. If not treated aggressively with intravenous fluids, permanent kidney damage can occur.
The kidneys aren't the only organs affected by dehydration. The heart and blood depend on a hydrated body. Losing just a small percent of body weight from dehydration can cause low blood pressure and leave you feeling weak, dizzy and tired.
Experts say that when a person feels thirsty or has a dry mouth, they may already be dehydrated. In adults, symptoms may include dark colored urine, decreased urine output, dizziness especially on standing, fatigue, increased heart rate, muscle cramps and confusion.
In babies and children, the symptoms vary by age but can include irritability, decreased activity, dry mouth, decreased urine output, decreased tears upon crying, increased heart rate, sunken eyes and a sunken soft spot on the top of the head.
It's important to drink fluids if you are going to be or are already in a condition prone to dehydration. Certainly, if you get to the point where you don't have the desire to drink or take in fluids, it's crucial that you seek medical attention. This is especially important in children and the elderly.
While the amount of water a person should drink per day is debated by scientists, most physicians recommend drinking a glass of non-caffeinated beverage with every meal, plus another two to four glasses throughout the day.
Caffeine is a natural diuretic, so caffeinated beverages like coffee and soda may not help you hydrate well. Most doctors recommend drinking something that is sugar and caffeine free. Therefore, water is your best and least expensive option when it comes to staying hydrated.