Dehydration is caused by a lack of fluid in the body. Simply put, when someone becomes dehydrated, they are not drinking enough to replace the fluids they lose.
Many factors contribute to how quickly the body becomes dehydrated, including the temperature, activity level, and certain illnesses. Dehydration can happen to anyone, but should especially be watched for in children since they likely won't notice the symptoms. Other people at a higher risk include the elderly, people with chronic illness, and athletes.
While the idea of dehydration may bring up images of cartoon characters dragging themselves toward an imaginary lake begging for water, the symptoms are actually very subtle. Low-level dehydration can affect energy levels, mood, and optimal brain function. As the condition advances, thirst may become less noticeable. However, the effects of dehydration can be serious. Severe cases can lead to heatstroke, kidney problems, seizure, and hypovolemic shock. Untreated dehydration can result in death. Knowing how to stay properly hydrated will prevent dehydration. The following tips describe proper fluid intake and other ways to prevent dehydration.
The common recommendation suggests the human body requires approximately eight glasses of fluid daily. However, this guideline is only correct in the event a healthy diet and the consumption of other fluids. More fluids are necessary during heavy activity or particularly warm weather. However, proper fluid intake is not like taking medication. Eight glasses of water first thing in the morning does not fill the quota for the day. The body uses fluids as they are introduced and gets rid of the excess through sweat and urine. The idea is to stay hydrated at all times. Space fluid intake throughout the day and drink before becoming thirsty.
Most people who become severely dehydrated or suffer heat stroke do not realize they have become hydrated. The symptoms may not be noticeable, and the condition can worsen quickly. Children are often distracted and at a higher risk. It is important to watch for certain visual cues to determine potential dehydration in children. Some symptoms include:
Symptoms in children are similar but may initially go unnoticed, especially if they cannot describe their discomfort. The earliest stages of dehydration in small children don't present any visual symptoms. As the condition progresses dry mouth, tiredness, increased heart and breathing rate, and reduced urine output occurs.
When it comes to dehydration, not all liquids are created equal. Caffeine, sugar, and sodium amount all factor into how quickly the body becomes dehydrated. Water is usually the best beverage for hydration. However, during strenuous activity, sports drinks can be a good alternative. These drinks replace electrolytes and chemicals that may become depleted like sodium and potassium. Sports drinks can also be useful in replenishing nutrients lost during an illness that causes vomiting or diarrhea. Drinks containing caffeine or alcohol are not advised since they promote dehydration through frequent urination.
Eating regularly naturally increases fluid intake. Most people drink liquids with a meal and food contains valuable fluid as well. Eating naturally triggers thirst. Many fruits and vegetables are high in water. Celery, cucumber, and watermelon all have high water content. Potassium-rich foods such as sweet potatoes, bananas, and pineapples are also helpful since dehydration is caused in part by the loss of electrolytes. Food replenishes vitamins and minerals to help the body function normally and prevent dehydration symptoms besides fluid loss.
Early symptoms of dehydration are easy to ignore when busy, ill, or in an unexpected situation. It is easy to go through an entire workday without a meal when the time is slipping away before an important deadline. A delay can make grabbing a meal or snack impossible.To stay hydrated with a busy lifestyle, make sure water is always close at hand. Keep fresh water in your car, near your workstation, and easily reachable when you are at home.
The information contained in this article should not be used to replace the advice, care, diagnosis or treatment from a medical doctor, certified personal trainer, therapist, dietitian, or nutritionist.