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Dehydration occurs when your body is lacking a sufficient amount of fluids, especially water. When you become dehydrated, water is moving out of your bodys cells and not being replenished, which can cause a variety of physical conditions. This water loss is normal and most people avoid dehydration by drinking fluids throughout the day. Dehydration can happen in different severities, ranging from mild to severe. The severity of the dehydration will depend on how much fluids you have lost or have not replaced. Dehydration without treatment can lead to hypohydration, which is even more dangerous. Dehydration that is considered severe can be life threatening without proper treatment, so you should get medical attention immediately if you show signs of moderate or severe dehydration.

Causes and Risk Factors of Dehydration

Dehydration can be caused by not getting enough fluids, not replenishing fluids, or a combination of both. Losing too much fluid is typically caused by excessive urination, fever, vomiting, diarrhea or excessive sweating. Someone might not replenish their fluids enough if they are ill; have a loss of appetite, nausea, mouth sores or sore throat. Children who are ill have a tendency to become dehydrated when they refuse to eat or drink anything in combination with diarrhea, fever or vomiting. Children are more likely to become dehydrated due to their lower body weight and turning over electrolytes more quickly than adults. Elderly persons with dehydration are at a higher risk. Other causes of dehydration include not being able to get access to water or safe drinking water or having a skin infection, skin disease or burn to the skin.

Symptoms, Signs and Testsof Dehydration

There are a variety of symptoms of people suffering from dehydration including not having tears, sunken eyes, lethargy or coma with severe dehydration, a dry or sticky mouth, dark yellow urine, little to no urine, vomiting, diarrhea, feeling like you cant keep anything down, dizziness or fainting, weakness, swollen tongue, confusion, extreme fatigue, headache, constipation or dry skin. Severe dehydration includes extreme thirst, fussiness in infants, extremely dry skin or mouth, low blood pressure, rapid breathing or rapid heartbeat, lack of sweating, no urination, sunken eyes or shriveled skin; if you show these signs, consult a doctor immediately. To diagnose dehydration, your doctor will perform a physical examination, which includes checking for low blood pressure, delayed capillary refill, blood pressure that drops when standing, lack of elasticity in your skin, signs of shock and a rapid heart rate. Tests for diagnosis include blood urea nitrogen test, blood chemistries to check your electrolytes, creatinine test, urine specific gravity test and a urinalysis.

Treatment, Drugs and Preventionof Dehydration

If you are showing any signs of dehydration, it is essential that you call your doctor right away. If you show signs of severe dehydration, call 911 and get emergency medical attention. Treatment usually starts with replenishing fluids, though they shouldnt be replaced too quickly. If you go to the hospital, they will give you fluids through an IV. Some things you can do at home for mild or moderate dehydration are sipping small amounts of water, drinking electrolyte drinks like sports drinks, eating a Popsicle or ice chips and sipping fluids through a straw. You should also try to stay as cool as possible, remain in an air conditioned room, remove excessive clothing and spray yourself with a spray bottle if youre outside and cant get to a cool area.

For hospital treatment, medications may be used if replenishing fluids isnt improving your other symptoms. For example, acetaminophen can be taken to reduce a fever. The best way to prevent dehydration is by drinking fluids on a regular basis. If youre going to be in very hot weather or have an illness that prevents you from drinking as you normally would, prepare for it such as by getting straws to drink water after dental surgery. Wear loose-fitted clothing and avoid drinking alcohol while youre in hot weather as it leads to dehydration quickly. If you arent able to avoid dehydration and are showing signs, dont hesitate to call 911 and get help immediately. Complications of dehydration without treatment include coma, permanent brain damage, seizures and death if it is severe.