To work well, the body needs a certain amount of fluid and things called electrolytes. Water is lost through sweat, urine, bowel movements, and breathing. Drinking and eating helps replace fluids and electrolytes. Dehydration can happen if:
Severe diarrhea and vomiting are the most common causes of dehydration in young children.
Dehydration is more common in young children and older adults. Older adults have less water in their bodies. Health problems or medicine can further reduce the fluids in their bodies.
Other things that may raise the risk of dehydration are:
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- High fever
- Being in the heat and sun
- Too much working out or sweating while playing a sport
- Medicines, including diuretics and laxatives
- Urinating more often
- Taking in less fluids due to movement problems, mental health or memory problems, or decreased ability to sense thirst
- Fluid loss caused by certain health issues such as diabetes, kidney disease, burns , and infection
Symptoms vary depending on how bad the dehydration is. A person may have:
- Dry mouth or feel thirsty
- Problems making tears, such as when crying
- Weakness or lightheadedness
- Not urinating (peeing) as often
- Concentrated urine—darker color, stronger odor
- Wrinkled or dry skin or parched, cracked lips
- Irritability and confusion
- Rapid heartbeat or fast breathing
- Weight loss
- Signs in infants are a sunken soft spot in the skull or no wet diapers for 3 or more hours
|Soft Spot in Infant Skull|
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Dehydration can be very serious and life threatening. A person may need medical care right away.
The goal of treatment is to replace the fluids in the body. The cause of the dehydration will also be treated if it is known.
Treatment may include:
Mild or moderate dehydration can be treated by taking in more fluids. This may be done through:
- Drinking small amounts of an oral rehydration solution during the day.
- Drinking plain water or salty liquids like broth for adults.
Drinks with alcohol and caffeine should be avoided. They can make the fluid loss worse.
IV fluids will be needed for severe dehydration. It will quickly replace fluids.
Medicine may be given if vomiting or diarrhea are causing severe fluid loss.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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