What Are The Effects Of Dehydration?
Water is the essence of life. A deficiency of water in the body results in a phenomenon known as dehydration. In this case, the body loses more water than we intake and fails to replenish the lost body fluids. As a result, the mineral content of the body gets imbalanced, thereby disturbing the normal functioning of the body.
Importance Of Water For The Healthy Functioning Of The Human Body
Water comprises 66% of our body composition. It is a vital element of all life processes and aids digestion, lubricates the joints, muscles, eyes, and keeps the skin elastic and hydrated. Water helps in flushing out toxins from the body and provides energy for performing day-to-day tasks.
Mild hydration occurs when the body loses 1-2% of body fluids. It can be easily treated by supplementing the body with lost liquids.
Symptoms of mild hydration in adults
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Thirsty and dry mouth
- A Headache
- Dry, cold skin
- Less urine flow
- Few tears when crying
- Muscle cramps and body pain
Symptoms of severe dehydration in adults
- Irritability, lethargy, and confusion
- Sunken eyes
- Extremely dry and flaky skin
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid heartbeat
- Low blood pressure
- No tears while crying
- Dark urine, very little urine flow
- Unconsciousness (extreme cases)
The bodies of infants and children constitute 70 % of liquids. They are more vulnerable to dehydration issues, which require immediate medical attention.
Symptoms of mild dehydration in children
- Wets less than six nappies in a day
- Plays less and is less active than usual
- Dry mouth
- Fewer tears while crying
- Sunken spot on the head which is soft to touch
- Loose, watery stools of dehydration are due to diarrhoea. If dehydration is due to liquid loss, there will be lesser bowel activity.
Symptoms of severe dehydration in children
- Extremely fussy, irritable, and sleepy
- Sunken eyes
- Low urination
- Discoloured hands and feet
- Dry and wrinkled skin
What causes dehydration?
Factors like climate, diet, illness, and physical activity could be the contributing factors leading to dehydration. Some causes of dehydration are:
The intestinal tracts of the person suffering from diarrhoea are unable to absorb moisture from foods, thus leading to dehydration.
A major amount of fluids is lost by vomiting caused due to illnesses, foodborne diseases, or nausea.
Sweating due to vigorous physical activity, heat, and fever could lead to loss of fluids and essential electrolytes from the body.
Some drugs like antihistamines, blood pressure medications, and antipsychotics could lead to frequent urination. Also, some health conditions could lead to frequent washroom visits. Care should be exercised to keep drinking fluids so as to avoid dehydration.
Apart from the disease itself, the medications of diabetes act as diuretics causing low fluid levels in the body.
Who is at a greater risk of dehydration?
People who perform intense physical exercises for long periods and lose body fluids through sweat can be prone to dehydration. Athletes engaged in mountain climbing are at a greater risk of dehydration as they have to breathe harder and the pressure at higher terrains makes them sweat more.
Sportspersons involved in marathons, cycling, triathlons and other such tournaments are at a greater risk of dehydration.
Studies show that when dehydration in the body increases, the skill and performance level of sportsmen decreases.
Often elders do not realise that they are becoming dehydrated till the situation goes out of hand. As per BBC reports, 1 in 5 older people does not get enough water due to loss of thirst sense or memory issues. Caretakers/family of elder people must take notice of the arising situation. Older people are often taking certain medication which acts as a diuretic and can cause dehydration. Chronic dehydration can lead to cognitive issues, confusion, low blood pressure, dizziness, and constipation.
Babies & Infants
Babies have low body weight and their bodies are composed of 78% water. Hence their need for fluids is greater than that of adults. Therefore, even small amounts of fluid loss could lead to dehydration.
People Who Suffer From Medical Conditions
People who suffer from chronic health diseases and even those suffering from alcoholism are often at a greater risk to dehydration. Patients suffering from bladder and kidney dysfunctions suffer from frequent urination and are therefore more susceptible to dehydration.
Also, those people suffering from dementia have shown 6 times increased chances of dehydration.
How To Detect Dehydration In People
Feeling thirsty is a sure sign of your body asking for fluid replenishment. Not feeling thirsty does not mean that you are not dehydrated, even before the symptoms of dehydration become pronounced and visible, you should be aware of how to identify the signs of dehydration.
Here are two ways to check for dehydration:
Take the skin on the back of the palm of your hands and pinch it, then let it go. If your skin returns to its original place immediately, then you are not dehydrated. However, if the skin takes time to go back to normal, then you could be dehydrated.
In healthy people, the urine is thin and clear with a tinge of yellow colour. In people who are dehydrated, the urine tends to be thicker with a darker yellow or orange shade.
These are the warning signs that indicate that the body is moving towards the stage of dehydration. Take heed and start drinking fluids. If left untreated, chronic dehydration can be life-threatening and result in seizures and brain damage.
How To Prevent Dehydration
The Institute of Medicine recommends that women should drink at least 2.7 litres of water every day and must take 3.5 litres a day. This quantity includes fluid intake from food, beverages, fruits, drinks and more. Fluids from fresh fruit juices replenish the body well and are much more effective than tea, coffee, and canned juices. In canned juices and aerated drinks, the amount of sugar consumed is huge and amounts to much more than what the body needs.
Here Are Some Tips To Stay Hydrated
Carry A Bottle Of Water
If you keep a water bottle right next to you, you will get into the habit of drinking water frequently. Carry it while travelling to work, school, in fact everywhere.
Add Spices To Plain Water
If drinking plain water does not sound interesting, how about spicing up the water? Adds chunks of frozen fruits, some lemon, herbs, or orange slices to make the water tastier and healthier.
Eat Healthy Snacks – Like Frozen Yoghurt, Fruits etc.
To increase the water intake, drink unsweetened teas, dips with hummus or finger veggies, or try swapping the chips and crackers with frozen fruits and smoothies.
Eat Fruits And Vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables have high water content. So much of seasonal produce to stay clear of dehydration. Strawberries, cantaloupe, watermelon, and cucumber have high fluid content.
Sip Between Meals
Take small sips of water (not too much) between meals to eat well and aid in food digestion.
Sports Drinks Are Not The Solution
Sports drinks are known to provide instant energy, but these sports drink might not necessarily rehydrate you. Also, they contain citric acid that might be harmful to the teeth enamel. Sodas and fizzy drinks are equally unhealthy, so it is better to drink natural fruits juices and drinks.
When To Visit The Doctor
If you see signs and symptoms of low hydration levels in the body, start drinking more fluids. But if symptoms persist, you should immediately consult a doctor. In the case of babies and elderly people, medical intervention should be provided at the earliest.
Contact The GP in The Following Conditions:
- Not passing urine for 8 hours
- Feeling very tired, confused and irritable
- Rapid heartbeat
- Extreme thirst
- Dizziness that recurs
Listen to your body. If your body is moving towards dehydration, it will start giving indications in advance. Do contact your doctor is dehydration conditions persist or seem to get worse.