Dehydration results from excessive loss of fluids from the body.
To work properly, the body requires a certain amount of water and other elements, called electrolytes. Drinking and eating help to replace fluids that have been lost through the body's functions. Fluids are normally lost through sweat, urine, bowel movements, and breathing. If you lose a lot of fluids and do not replace them, you can become dehydrated.
Factors that may increase the risk of dehydration include: VomitingDiarrheaHigh feverExposure to the heat and sunExcessive exerciseMedicines, including diuretics (water pills) and laxativesInadequate fluid intake due to certain conditions, such as mobility problems, mental or memory problems, decreased ability to perceive thirst
Fluid imbalance caused by certain conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease, kidney disease,
Other risk factors include: Age:
being less than two years old, or being 65 years or olderLiving in a nursing homeParticipating in an athletic competition
Symptoms vary depending on the degree of dehydration. Symptoms may include: Dry mouthLimited tear productionThirstWeaknessDecreased urinationConcentrated urine
(such as, darker color, stronger odor)Wrinkled skin or tenting when pinchedEyes that appear sunkenParched, cracked lipsDizziness or feeling faintDrowsinessNauseaIrritabilityConfusionFeverLow blood pressureIncreased pulseFast breathingWeight lossIn infants, sunken soft spot in the skull
Soft Spot in Infant Skull
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Dehydration can be extremely serious and life threatening. It may require immediate medical care.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will also be done. This will include measuring your vital signs. To help provide information for the doctor, keep a diary of: Your daily weightNumber of times you have vomited or moved your bowelsYour fluid and food intakeYour urine outputAny self-treatments you may have tried
Tests may include: Urine tests—to check the concentration of the urineBlood tests—to check body fluids and body chemistry
Therapy aims to rehydrate the body, replace lost electrolytes, and prevent complications. If you have an underlying condition, your doctor will treat that, as well.
Treatment may include:
If you have minimal or moderate dehydration, you doctor may have you replace fluids by mouth. You may need to:
Drink small amounts of oral rehydration solution throughout the day. Continue to drink the oral rehydration solution. Avoid other drinks, such as:
Beverages with alcohol or caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and soft drinksCarbonated drinks, sweetened drinks, fruit juices, and plain waterIncrease the amount of liquid as you can tolerate it.
If you are severely dehydrated, intravenous fluids (given through a vein in your arm) will be given to rapidly replace fluids.
Your doctor may recommend that you take medicine, such as: Antiemetics for severe vomitingAntidiarrheal medicine for severe diarrhea or abdominal crampingAntibiotics for severe diarrhea caused by a certain bacterial infection
If you are diagnosed with dehydration, follow your doctor's
To prevent dehydration: Drink plenty of fluids, even if you are busy or sick.Drink fluids regularly while exercising or when outdoors on a hot day. Stop frequently for fluid breaks.
Last reviewed March 2013 by Brian Randall
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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