Dehydration is more common than you think. Just because you haven’t been outside exercising and sweating does not mean that you are well hydrated. If you have felt thirsty at any point in your day, then you were dehydrated. This level of dehydration may not be life threatening, but once you have reached the point of feeling thirsty, your hydration level is too low. So what are the risks associated with dehydration and what can you do to stay hydrated?
Dehydration occurs when fluid is lost from the body faster than it is taken in. General signs of dehydration include:
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Dry, sticky mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Urine changes – decreased output or darkened color
- Skin changes – dry or flushed
- Dry cough
- Heat intolerance
More extreme dehydration can cause the following symptoms:
- Severe thirst
- Dry mouth, skin, and mucus membranes – skin lacks elasticity
- Lack of sweating or lack of tears when crying
- Little or no urination
- Sunken eyes
- Sunken fontanels in infants
- Low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and rapid breathing
- Irritability/confusion – delirium and unconsciousness in extreme cases
Severe dehydration is a medical emergency; therefore, being aware of these signs and symptoms is important.
So what kinds of problems can result from dehydration? Hydration is essential for proper function of the body’s organs. One particular example is the heart. When hydrated properly, blood is not as viscous (thick); therefore, the heart can pump it through the body easier and supply muscles with the oxygen they need for normal functioning. When the blood is thick due to dehydration, more strain is placed on the heart while it pumps. Serious complications related to dehydration can include:
- Heat injury – ex. heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke
- Swelling of the brain – can occur with rehydrating following dehydration
- Seizures – can occur from electrolyte imbalance due to dehydration
- Low blood volume shock – drop in blood volume can decrease the amount of oxygen in the body
- Kidney failure – can occur when the kidneys no longer have to remove excess fluid/waste from the blood
- Coma and death – can occur if dehydration is not treated quickly or appropriately
Certain factors can increase your risk of dehydration including diarrhea, vomiting, fever, excessive sweating, and increased urination. If you have any of these problems, staying pro-active about hydrating is critical.
Stay tuned for our next blog which will discuss the best strategies for avoiding dehydration.