Treating Dehydration

by April Reinhardt
(last updated September 5, 2008)

When the body excretes more fluids than it consumes, dehydration occurs. While it is easy to conclude that the simple remedy for dehydration is to drink more fluids, there are some medical causes of dehydration requiring more complex solutions. Dehydration can be caused by:

  • Infectious diseases such as gastroenteritis and cholera.
  • Malnutrition and high fever.
  • Fasting.
  • Electrolyte disturbances.
  • Rapid weight loss.
  • Anorexia and bulimia.
  • Diabetes and hyperglycemia.
  • Prolonged exposure to dry air or desert conditions.
  • Prolonged physical activity in a hot environment without consuming water.
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, and hyperthermia.
  • Burns, blood loss, and shock.
  • Illicit drug use.

Serious health conditions can result from prolonged dehydration, such as seizures, heat stroke, and kidney failure. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of dehydration, and knowing how to treat it, can help prevent the condition from becoming a serious situation. Symptoms may include:

  • Severe headaches.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Weakness and confusion.
  • Thick saliva.
  • Dizziness and fainting.
  • Dark and decreased urine volume.
  • Fever and fatigue.

The best way to treat dehydration is to stop fluid loss by increasing fluid intake. While drinking commercial fluids containing electrolytes does increase fluid intake, water is preferable. The body will balance its own electrolyte levels when properly hydrated, and water intake is the most natural way to create that balance. For mild dehydration cases, drink room temperature water and avoid beverages containing caffeine such as tea, soda, and coffee. Moderate and severe dehydration may require hospitalization for IV fluid treatments.

There are a few things you can do to prevent dehydration, including:

  • Drink the recommended eight to ten glasses of water each day.
  • Avoid diets that recommend limited fluid intake.
  • Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink fluids.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol, as they can be dehydrating.
  • In warm climates and on hot days, drink plenty of fluids.
  • Prepare for sports activities by hydrating your body with fluids at least two hours before the event.

Avoid unnecessary sweating when dehydrated, as it wastes water. It is better not to eat food if you are dehydrated, since water is necessary for digestion. In severe cases of dehydration, seek immediate medical attention. Prolonged bouts of vomiting or diarrhea require proper replacement of fluids in the form of IV solutions and oral electrolytes.

A good axiom for avoiding dehydration during strenuous activity or in humid environments is monitoring the quality and frequency of urination. If the urine is lightly colored or colorless, and you have a full bladder every three to five hours, then chances are that hydration is adequate.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...

MORE FROM APRIL

Selecting Room Colors

When you decide paint colors for rooms of your home, consider objects which will stay in the room, such as furniture, ...

Discover More

Organizing the Kitchen Pantry

Organizing your kitchen pantry is relatively easy, if you envision it as a micro version of a grocery store. Your grocer ...

Discover More

Removing Beeswax from Fabric

Removing beeswax from fabric may actually be easier than removing paraffin wax, since it is more pliable and soft. The trick ...

Discover More
More Health Tips

Caring for a Blister

Blisters are the skin's defense mechanism to protect its deeper layers from bacteria. While preventing a blister is almost ...

Discover More

Treating Heat Exhaustion

Although not as severe as heat stroke, heat exhaustion does require emergency first-aid to prevent the victim from ...

Discover More

Treating a Choking Child

A choking child is a terrifying event. Not only is the child scared witless, but often the caregiver is as well. By following ...

Discover More
Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is seven minus 5?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)