Anybody can become dehydrated if they don’t take care of themselves and drink plenty of water. Being dehydrated happens when there is insufficient water in the body or increased water loss through sweating, vomiting, and/or diarrhea, along with certain medications, can increase urination and dehydration. Older adults have an increased risk of dehydrating because their body’s fluid reserves decrease, and their body’s ability to signal that they are thirsty does not work as effectively, especially those with memory problems.
Signs of dehydration include:
- Muscle cramps.
- Dry mouth
- Dry cough.
- Flushed red skin.
- Swollen feet.
- High heart rate but low blood pressure.
- Dizziness, weakness, light-headedness.
- Headache, delirium, confusion.
- Loss of appetite with a sugar craving.
- Heat intolerance or chills.
- Dark-colored urine. Urine should be a pale clear color.
Dehydration is categorized as:
- The body needs more fluids to be taken in.
- Drink water
- Drinks containing electrolytes are recommended if experiencing significant sweating or fluid losses from vomiting and diarrhea.
- The body should feel better after five or ten minutes.
- Moderate dehydration requires intravenous hydration.
- This is done in urgent care, emergency room, or a hospital.
- If symptoms of dehydration are severe, call 911 or go to an emergency clinic.
- Severe hydration shrinks the blood vessels in the brain.
- When fluid levels in the brain are low, this affects memory and coordination.
Laboratory tests can diagnose dehydration and include:
- Low urine sodium.
- Elevated plasma serum osmolality measures particle concentration in blood plasma.
- Elevated creatinine tests kidney function.
- Elevated blood urea nitrogen is also related to kidney function.
The amount of water needed daily is different for all individuals; therefore, it is recommended to check in with a healthcare provider to determine how much is required to maintain health.
Enjoy Drinking Water
- Carry a water bottle, keep it filled, and get used to taking sips throughout the day to start a healthy habit.
- Add flavor like a wedge of lemon/lime, lime or lemon juice, or a healthy water additive.
- Choose water or healthy hot or iced tea instead of sugary drinks, including at meals.
- Eat foods high in water content, like fruits and vegetables.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drinking-Water. (www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/nutrition/index.html)
HealthFirst. What Happens to Your Body When You’re Dehydrated? (healthyliving.healthfirst.org/happens-body-youre-dehydrated/)
Kenefick, Robert W, and Michael N Sawka. “Hydration at the worksite.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition vol. 26,5 Suppl (2007): 597S-603S. doi:10.1080/07315724.2007.10719665
Thomas, David R et al. “Understanding clinical dehydration and its treatment.” Journal of the American Medical Directors Association vol. 9,5 (2008): 292-301. doi:10.1016/j.jamda.2008.03.006