Dangers of Dehydration
Dehydration: Symptoms, Signs and How to Prevent It
Water is essential for the cells and organs in our bodies to function, allowing us to engage in complex activities such as playing sports and even processes we don’t think about such as breathing. When humans drink enough water we feel good – our muscles cramp up less when we exercise, our brains perform faster cognitive calculations, and we digest our food more efficiently and effectively. The human body is, after all, comprised of 60% water, so water is clearly critical to a healthy and productive lifestyle. But what happens when humans do not drink enough water? How does a deficit in water intake affect our bodily functions, behaviors and health?
What Is Dehydration?
Dehydration happens when our bodies are not consuming enough water or fluids to account for the water lost.* Although our bodies process and lose water at a baseline rate that generally aligns with our metabolism, we can lose fluids at higher rates when we are sick, exercising, sweating heavily or suffering from other conditions that result in the loss of excess amounts of water.
What Causes Dehydration?
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are a variety of ways our bodies can lose excess amounts of fluids:
- Exercising and Sweating: People often become thirsty engaging in sports, which is the body’s way of saying it needs more water to hydrate the muscles and cells. Hot weather and humidity also cause the body to sweat thus losing fluids through our pores.
- Vomiting or Diarrhea: The body loses significant amounts of fluids and electrolytes when we vomit or have diarrhea.
- Fever: When you have a fever your overall body temperature increases, thus putting strain on your internal organs and tissues to work harder. As a result, fevers are known to cause dehydration by requiring the body to process water at a higher rate than normal.
- Increased Urination: Conditions such as diabetes, other illnesses, and even some medications can cause increased urination, resulting in the loss of fluids at a higher rate than normal.
- Drinking Alcohol: When you drink alcohol you also increase the rate at which the body urinates. If you don’t replace the fluids you’ve lost, then even a couple of drinks may lead to dehydration.
What Are the Symptoms of Dehydration?
People at any age can become dehydrated, and since younger children and infants might not be able to vocalize or recognize when they are thirsty, it is important to take note of the various symptoms attributed with dehydration. When humans feel thirsty they are already dehydrated, so the ability to recognize other associated symptoms might help you rehydrate sooner.*
Signs of Dehydration in Adults:
- Muscle fatigue
- Reduced cognitive processing
- Confused or dazed states of awareness
- Infrequent urination and dark colored urine
- Dry mouth
Signs of Dehydration in Children and Infants:
- Easily irritable
- The top of the skull has a sunken soft spot
- Tearless crying
- Dry tongue and dry mouth
- Sunken cheeks and eyes
- Infrequent urination (no wet diapers for three hours)
How to Treat Dehydration
Individuals who experience mild dehydration can be treated simply by consuming enough fluids to replace the amount being lost by the body. Read below tips on how to stay hydrated. Note: Severe dehydration calls for immediate medical treatment due to the extreme low levels of water and oxygen in the bloodstream and you should consult medical personnel to act quickly to avoid damage to tissues or vital organs.*
How to Avoid Dehydration
Since the body is already dehydrated when it is thirsty, it is important to remember to be drinking water throughout the day even when we do not think we need it. Here are some tips to keep optimal hydration:
- Aim to drink 64 oz. of water a day on days without heavy exercise or sun/heat exposure. According to Harvard Medical School, most healthy people should drink between four to six cups of water daily, however, this amount may vary based on the individual.
- Drink from a refillable and reusable water bottle so you can keep track of the amount you are drinking when at work, traveling, or even at home. Brita offers a variety of reusable filter water bottles that are not only designed to help you hydrate throughout your busy day, but also filter out the impurities found in household tap water.
- When water tastes good you’ll drink more of it. Check out these fun recipes to enhance the taste of your water.
- Eat your water! Apples, cantaloupe, watermelon, cherry tomatoes, oranges, celery and carrots all help you stay hydrated.
- Don’t overdo it! Although unusual, it is possible to become ill by drinking too much water or other fluids.
- Start each day with a glass of water (no ice). Drink it before you have coffee, tea or juice. It will help replace fluids lost overnight and get your hydration efforts off to a good start.
- Establish regular water breaks during your work day (e.g., before or after each meeting).
- Cook with high-quality sea salt. Unrefined sea salt is rich in trace minerals which aid cell health and hydration.
- Stay hydrated while traveling by drinking plenty of water the morning of your trip before you get on a plane, and avoid or minimize caffeine, sugar and alcohol drinks while in the air.