Dehydration happens when you lose or use more fluids than your body takes in, which results in the body not having enough water and/or other fluids to function normally. If you do not replace the lost fluids, you will get dehydrated. Dehydration can happen to people in any age group, but it is especially dangerous for older adults, young children, and those who regularly have a vigorous exercise routine. Dehydration can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the amount of fluid your body is missing. Mild to moderate dehydration can generally be reversed by drinking more fluids; however, severe conditions usually require immediate medical treatment. Here are the most common causes and how you can prevent the risk of dehydration.
Your body naturally loses water by breathing, sweating, urinating and bowel movements as well as through saliva and tears. However, you typically replace lost fluids by drinking fluids and consuming food that contains water. Dehydration may occur for simple reasons, such as not drinking enough water because you’re traveling or you are sick. In some situations, you may lose more water than normal, including:
- Fever-Basically, the higher your fever is, the greater the risk for dehydration. There is an increased risk of dehydration if you have diarrhea and/or are vomiting in addition to having a fever.
- Excessive sweating-Your body loses water each time you sweat. However, if you tend to do vigorous exercise or strenuous activities and you do not replace the lost fluid as needed, you may become dehydrated. There is also a risk of dehydration if you are outdoors during hot, humid weather, and the risk increases if you are exercising in this type of weather.
- Diarrhea and/or vomiting-If you experience acute, severe diarrhea, it can cause significant loss of water from your body as well as a loss of electrolytes. If you are vomiting along with diarrhea, there is an even greater risk of losing essential fluids and minerals from your body.
- An increase in urination-This is a common problem with uncontrolled or undiagnosed diabetes. Certain medications, such as some blood pressure medications and diuretics may also lead to dehydration because they cause you to urinate more.
Diarrhea and vomiting are the most common causes of dehydration in babies and young children. Elderly adults naturally have a lower water volume in the body, and they may have certain medical conditions or take medications that may increase their risk of dehydration.
The ideal way to prevent the risk of dehydration is to drink plenty of fluids and eat a diet that consists of foods high in water content, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s important to pay attention to your thirst and use it as a guideline for ensuring you are getting sufficient amounts of water. There are situations when you should take in more fluids, especially under certain conditions, such as:
- Participating in strenuous exercise
- During hot, humid weather, especially when outdoors
- During illness
- If you are vomiting and/or have diarrhea
It is extremely important to be aware of dehydration in children and elderly adults, especially during outside activities. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, and if participating in activities that result in sweating more than normal, remember to drink sips of water throughout the duration of the activity. If you notice any signs and symptoms of dehydration, move to a shaded area to cool down and drink sips of water. If the person is acting differently than usual, appears to be sweating profusely, there is a change in skin color, or becomes lethargic, contact 9-1-1 immediately.
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