What is Dehydration?

Dehydration is a condition that manifests itself when a person loses more body fluids, mostly water, than they take in.

Water leaves the body when we exhale breath containing water vapor, via sweat while exercising, the excretion of urine, and stool via defecation.

Dehydration can occur due to a too low intake of fluids or be a consequence of other medical conditions. Dehydration is most commonly caused by diarrhea which prevents the large intestine from absorbing water from food that is consumed. Having to urinate frequently because of diabetes that is not managed properly can also lead to a state of dehydration.

Dehydration can also be attributed to the consumption of alcohol, the use of antihistamines and diuretics, as well as medications prescribed for high blood pressure.

What are the Symptoms of Dehydration?

Symptoms may include dry mouth, little or no tears when crying, muscle weakness, dizziness, headaches, along with lethargy. As a person’s state of dehydration becomes more severe they may also experience low blood pressure, sunken eyes, increased heart rate, delirium, and unconsciousness and loss of skin elasticity.

Dehydration Causes

Dehydration occurs when the body does not have the right amount of water. The body naturally loses water through sweat, breath, and excretion, but this water is replaced through fluid and food intake. However, if you lose too much water or fail to drink enough, you may develop dehydration.

Dehydration can also be caused by severe or acute diarrhea. That is, abrupt and sudden diarrhea can result in tremendous loss body fluid in a short time. Diarrhea which is accompanied by fever and vomiting can result in loss of even more body fluid and electrolytes.

Excessive sweating is another common cause of dehydration. If you engage in an intense physical activity and fail to replace lost body fluid as you go along, you may develop dehydration. Exposure to hot, humid weather can also increase the amount of fluid you lose through sweat.

Increased urination that is triggered by an underlying condition like diabetes can also cause dehydration. Other causes of dehydration include medications like blood pressure medications and diuretics. These medications trigger frequent urination that results in loss of body fluid. Excessive consumption of alcohol, high protein diets, and foods with high salt concentration can also cause dehydration.

How is Dehydration Treated?

Treatment involves restoring lost bodily fluids by consuming clear broths, Gatorade, and water. Some patients may require fluid replacement intravenously. Anti-diarrhea medications can stop the rapid loss of bodily fluids while anti-emetics can stop continuous dehydration due to excessive vomiting.

Dehydrated individuals should avoid consuming beverages that contain caffeine like sodas, teas, and coffee.

Dehydration Prevention

Drinking plenty of water before, during and after an intense physical activity or exercise can ensure that you replace the lost body fluid. Bring a container of water or sports drink with you when exercising and ensure that you drink at least every 15 minutes.

Avoid high-protein diets. However, if you are on these diets, be sure to take at least ten glasses of water during the day. Avoid excessive alcohol intake. Excessive beer and wine consumption drain the body of water while making it hard to make sound decisions.

When working out outdoors, be sure to wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Ensure that you change into dry clothing as soon as your clothes are soaked with sweat. Never workout in a rubber suit. Finally, avoid taking salt tablets.

Last Reviewed:
September 13, 2016
Last Updated:
December 12, 2017