The majority of the body is made up of water with up to 75% of the body's weight due to H2O. Most of the water is found within the cells of the body (intracellular space). The rest is found in the extracellular space, which consists of the blood vessels (intravascular space) and the spaces between cells (interstitial space).
|Dehydration occurs when the amount of water leaving the body is greater than the amount being taken in. The body is very dynamic and always changing. In a normal day, a person has to drink a significant amount of water to replace this routine loss.|
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration?
The body's initial responses to dehydration are thirst to increase water intake along with decreased urine output to try to conserve water. The urine will become concentrated and more yellow in color.
As the level of water loss increases, more symptoms can become apparent, such as increased thirst, dry mouth, cessation of tear production by the eyes, cessation of sweating, muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting, heart palpitations, and light-headedness (especially when standing). With severe dehydration, confusion and weakness will occur as the brain and other body organs receive less blood. Finally, coma and organ failure will occur if the dehydration remains untreated.
How is Dehydration Treated?
|Fluid replacement is the treatment for dehydration. This may be attempted by replacing fluid by mouth, but if this fails, intravenous fluid (IV) may be required. Should oral rehydration be attempted, frequent small amounts of clear fluids should be used.|
Clear fluids include:
- clear broths,
- Jell-O, and
- other replacement fluids that may contain electrolytes (Pedialyte, Gatorade, Powerade, etc.)
Causes of Dehydration:
Diarrhea is the most common reason a person loses excess water. Diarrhea consists of unusually frequent or unusually liquid bowel movements and excessive watery evacuations of fecal material. Persistent diarrhea is both uncomfortable and dangerous, as a significant amount of water can be lost with each bowel movement. Worldwide, more than four million children die each year because of dehydration from diarrhea.
Vomiting is the act of forcible emptying of the stomach, in which the stomach has to overcome the pressures that are normally in place to keep food and secretions within the stomach. The stomach almost turns itself inside out - forcing itself into the lower portion of the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach) during a vomiting episode. Constant vomiting can be a serious cause of fluid loss and it is difficult for a person to replace water if they are unable to tolerate liquids.
The body can lose significant amounts of water when it tries to cool itself by sweating. Whether the body is hot because of the environment (for example, working in a warm environment), intense exercising in a hot environment, or because a fever is present due to an infection; the body uses a significant amount of water in the form of sweat to cool itself. Depending upon weather conditions, a brisk walk will generate up to 16 ounces of sweat (one pound of water).
In people with diabetes, elevated blood sugar levels cause sugar to spill into the urine, and water then follows, which can cause significant dehydration. For this reason, frequent urination and excessive thirst are among the symptoms of diabetes.