What is Dehydration?
Your body is made up of 60% water. When you lose fluids or don’t drink enough, you become dehydrated. Thirst is your body’s way of telling you that you are dehydrated. When the body fluid level dips even slightly, the thirst mechanism kicks in. But don’t wait, by the time you are thirsty you are already dehydrated. Medical experts agree that the best way to check your hydration levels is the color of your urine. Aim for light to almost water colored urine just to be safe. If you have any other symptoms of dehydration, you may need immediate treatment.
Most symptoms of dehydration are mild at first and include:
Dark yellow urine
Reduced urine output/few wet diapers in babies
Lack of tears
If dehydration goes untreated, the symptoms become more severe and include:
Extremely dry mouth and eyes
Absence of urination or dark amber/tea colored urination
Sunken eyes (in adults) or soft spot (in babies)
Skin that stays up when pinched
Decreased blood pressure
Fast heart rate and breathing
Loss of consciousness
Once you get to the above severe symptoms, you have a medical emergency. You need to get medical attention right away. This is especially important for infants and the elderly.
The causes of dehydration are most often:
Not drinking enough fluids
Sore throat that prevents you from drinking
Sores in the mouth
Sick or elderly who are unable to eat or drink by themselves
Infants or young children
People who work outside or in hot spaces
Living and/or working in high altitude
If you have severe symptoms of dehydration seek medical help right away. Doctors look for the following signs of dehydration:
Skin that sticks together when pinched
Low blood pressure
Fast heart beat
Lack of tears or saliva
They can run these tests to see if you have enough fluids and electrolytes in your body:
Complete blood count
Kidney function tests
Dehydration is treated by replacing lost fluids. Here are some tips to help replenish fluids in mild dehydration:
Take small sips of water every few minutes
If you are vomiting, try sucking ice
Use sports drinks
Do not add salt to water or take salt tablets
Treat diarrhea to prevent losing any more fluids
Severe dehydration is a medical emergency and is treated in the hospital with intravenous fluids.
Increase Fluids. If you exercise in hot weather, increase your fluid intake. If you are sick try to drink as much as you can, but take fluids slowly to prevent vomiting them back up. Also, if you are running a fever, vomiting, or have diarrhea increase fluid intake. It is dangerous to wait until symptoms of dehydration appear.
Offer Fluids to Ill Family Members. If someone in your home is ill, check on them frequently and offer fluids. This is especially important for infants and the elderly.
Avoid Caffeine. Caffeine is a diuretic and can increase fluid loss in the body. Stick to drinks that do not have any caffeine. Try juice, sports drinks, decaffeinated tea, or water.
Alternative Medicine for Dehydration
Dehydration can be a serious medical emergency. If you have severe symptoms, do not try to treat dehydration at home. If you have mild symptoms, the following home remedies may be helpful:
Chamomile Tea. Chamomile tea helps soothe an irritated stomach and eases nausea and vomiting. Any decaffeinated tea can help rehydrate the body.
Eat Fruit. Bananas have a high potassium content and contain water. Watermelon, oranges, and strawberries can also rehydrate the body. Cucumbers also have a high water content.
Coconut Water. Coconut water is full of electrolytes and is excellent for hydrating the body.
Epsom Salt Baths. Epsom salt contains magnesium and can help the body absorb electrolytes better.
Ginger and Buttermilk. Try mixing one cup of buttermilk with a half-teaspoon of ginger a few times a day if you chronically get dehydrated.