Dehydration is a very common condition that many adults will experience once in their lifetime, though they might not know it. When your body does not have sufficient fluids, especially water, it goes into dehydration. Dehydration ranges from mild, to moderate and severe based on how much fluid is lost. Each of these levels of dehydration includes different side effects, symptoms, and complications. Dehydration is a treatable medical condition that requires adding a sufficient amount of fluids to the body.

Causes of Dehydration

Dehydration is caused from losing too much fluid or not drinking enough fluids, or a combination of both. There are many ways a body loses too much fluid too quickly such as excessive sweating from heat or strenuous exercise, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive urine output such as from overuse of diuretics or uncontrolled diabetes. The reasons a person might not be drinking enough fluids is due to nausea, loss of appetite, sore throat, mouth sores, or other conditions. In children, dehydration is often the result of being ill and losing fluids from fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. Infants and children are at a higher risk for dehydration due to their low weight.

Symptoms of Dehydration

Some of the more common signs and symptoms of dehydration include a dry or sticky mouth, lethargy or coma when someone is severely dehydrated, low urine output, dark yellow urine, sunken eyes, lack of tears, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, and the feeling that you can’t keep down any food. Infants who are dehydrated might also have a soft spot on the top of their head.

Diagnosing Dehydration

Many doctors are able to diagnose dehydration simply by performing a physical exam. During this exam they look for signs of dehydration such as a blood pressure that continues to drop, a delayed capillary refill, low blood pressure, skin that isn’t as elastic as normal, signs of shock, or a rapid heart rate. Additional tests used to diagnose hydration are blood tests to check for electrolytes, potassium and sodium levels, urine specific gravity, creatinine in the blood, complete blood count, or a blood urea nitrogen test.

Treating Dehydration

The first and most common treatment for dehydration is replacing the fluids missing by drinking more water and other hydrating liquids. Small amounts of liquid while dehydrated is better than having a lot of liquids at once time. Drinking too much can bring on vomiting which will worsen the condition. There are also electrolyte freezer pops available at most pharmacies that are recommended. Sports drinks are not recommended, even though they contain electrolytes, because they have a lot of sugar. For severe cases of dehydration, intravenous fluids may be necessary. With the right treatment, dehydration can be cured quickly.

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