Dehydration is a dangerous condition that occurs when you lose more water than you take in, causing an imbalance of fluid and electrolytes which makes it difficult, or impossible, for your body to function efficiently.
We naturally expel water throughout the day through processes such as sweating, urination, defecation, and even when we exhale. The amount we lose depends on factors like high temperatures and physical exertion, as well as the side effects of physical ailments like fever, vomiting, or diarrhea, which increase the amount of water loss. People who have been exercising strenuously, have spent time outdoors when it’s hot out, or who have been vomiting or having diarrhea should be especially mindful of replenishing their fluids.
Symptoms of dehydration range from the mild to the severe depending on how advanced it is. A dry mouth, increased thirst , and a headache are three of the earliest signs that you should drink some water; your tongue may also feel enlarged or swollen. Dizziness and lightheadedness are common symptoms in the earlier stages, and they may lead to fainting, which can be quite dangerous. Dry skin and constipation can also set in, along with decreased urination, sweating, and even tears when crying. Other serious symptoms can include changes in blood pressure, a rapid heartbeat or breathing rates, and delirium.
For people like children, the elderly, and those who are ill, it may be difficult to monitor their own hydration levels, so the people around them should be on the lookout for signs of dehydration. In children, this means being less active than usual; for babies, a diaper than remains dry for several hours, an unusual amount of fussiness, or sunken fontanels (the soft spot on the head) can be concerning signals. Adults may becomes irritable or confused. Keep a close eye on people who are sick and encourage them to drink water or sports drinks, since they may feel too distracted or unwell to get enough on their own.
If you or someone else is exhibiting signs of dehydration, replenish fluids immediately; if symptoms become noticeably worse or serious (fainting, delirium), seek medical attention right away.