Dehydration results from the loss of water and important electrolytes from the body, including potassium, sodium, chloride, and many other minerals that are often overlooked. The very functioning of essential organs like the brain, kidney, heart and nervous system can’t function without sufficient water or minerals. In third
world countries, millions of people die each year from dehydration, particularly susceptible are children and the elderly. But even in North America people suffer unnecessarily and even when people aren’t actually ill from
dehydration, it can really affect quality of life and performance.
It's been estimated that up to 80% of the U.S. adult population goes through their normal day in at least a mildly dehydrated state. And, if one reports for work dehydrated, the odds of that circumstance improving during the day aren't very good.
Most people only think about drinking water when they are thirsty; but by then it may already be too late.
Even mild dehydration can alter a person's mood, energy level, and ability to think clearly, according to two studies recently conducted at the University of Connecticut's Human Performance Laboratory.
The tests showed that it didn't matter if a person had just walked for 40 minutes on a treadmill or was sitting at rest - the adverse effects from mild dehydration were the same. Mild dehydration is defined as an approximately 1.5 percent loss in normal water volume in the body.
The test results affirm the importance of staying properly hydrated at all times and not just during exercise, extreme heat, or exertion, says Lawrence E. Armstrong, one of the studies' lead scientists and a professor of physiology in UConn's Department of Kinesiology in the Neag School of Education.
Sugary, caffeine-packed soft drinks, in particular, can cause trouble, said Dr. Gary I. Wadler of New York University School of Medicine. A cola's sugar and the carbonation can make a person feel full without providing enough liquid.
"They are very sweet, so you get bloated. They are gaseous, so they distend you, so you get more bloated," Wadler said. And caffeine, which tends to increase the flow of urine, "is a double whammy," he said. "You lose on all counts."
Water is the best source of hydration for your body. Soda pop is not a healthy choice for hydration and it will actually make you dehydrate faster so it is very detrimental if you are playing sports. Sports drinks are good if you have been playing in sports or exercising for more than 40 minutes. Milk and juice are healthy as part of your diet, but they also contain calories, which should be considered to maintain a healthy weight.
Common Causes of Potential Dehydration:
Fever, Exercise, Excess exposure to heat (heat exhaustion/heat stroke)
Ulcers, Food Poisoning, Flu, etc.
Gastroenteritis, Flu, Food Poisoning, Bowel Disease
When you do not have enough water, you are at higher risk for problems such as:
low blood pressure
urinary tract infections
salivary gland function problems
Signs of Mild or Moderate Dehydration:
Feeling more thirsty
Very dry mouth
Less urination or darker urine
Slight dizziness or lightheadedness
Additional Signs in Babies and Children
Being less active
Fewer tears when crying
Slightly sunken soft spot on top of a baby’s head
Fewer wet diapers than a child normally has, or the
weight of the diapers is less
than normal for him or her
The only effective treatment for dehydration is to replace lost fluids and lost electrolytes. The best approach to dehydration treatment depends on age, the severity of dehydration and its cause.
Treating dehydration in sick children
Your doctor can offer specific suggestions for treating dehydration in your child, but some general guidelines include the following:
Use an oral rehydration solution. Unless your doctor advises otherwise, use an oral rehydration solution such as Pedialyte for infants and children who have diarrhea, vomiting or fever. These solutions contain water and salts in specific proportions to replenish both fluids and electrolytes. They're also designed for easier digestion. Oral rehydration products are readily available in most drugstores, and many pharmacies carry their own brands. Begin giving fluids early in the course of an illness instead of waiting until the situation becomes urgent.
In an emergency situation where a pre-formulated solution is unavailable, you can make your own oral rehydration solution by mixing 1/2 teaspoon salt, 6 level teaspoons of sugar and 1 liter (about 1 quart) of safe drinking water. Be sure to measure accurately because incorrect amounts can make the solution less effective or even harmful. If possible, have someone else check your measurements for accuracy.
Whatever alternative you chose, be sure to give enough solution. Your doctor may suggest specific amounts, depending on your child's age and degree of dehydration, but a general rule of thumb is to keep giving liquids slowly until your child's urine becomes clear in color. When your child is vomiting, try giving small amounts of solution at frequent intervals — try a spoonful or so every few minutes, for instance. If your child can't keep this down, wait 30 to 60 minutes and try again. Room temperature fluids are best.
Continue to breast-feed. Don't stop breast-feeding when your baby is sick, but offer your baby an oral rehydration solution in a bottle as well. If you give your baby formula, try switching to one that's lactose-free until diarrhea improves — lactose can be difficult to digest during diarrhea, making diarrhea worse. Never dilute formula more than the instructions advise. Your doctor also may suggest substituting an oral rehydration solution for the formula for 12 to 24 hours.
Avoid certain foods and drinks. The best liquid for a sick child is an oral rehydration solution — plain water doesn't provide essential electrolytes, and although sports drinks replenish electrolytes, they replace those lost through sweating, not through diarrhea or vomiting. Avoid giving your child milk, sodas, caffeinated beverages, fruit juices or gelatins, which don't relieve dehydration and which may make symptoms worse.
Treating dehydration in sick adults
Most adults with mild to moderate dehydration from diarrhea, vomiting or fever can improve their condition by drinking more water. Water is best because other liquids, such as fruit juices, carbonated beverages or coffee, can make diarrhea worse.
Treating dehydration in athletes of all ages
For exercise-related dehydration, cool water is your best bet. Sports drinks containing electrolytes and a carbohydrate solution also may be helpful. There's no need for salt tablets — too much salt can lead to hypernatremic dehydration, a condition in which your body not only is short of water but also carries an excess of sodium.
Treating severe dehydration
Children and adults who are severely dehydrated should be treated by emergency personnel arriving in an ambulance or in a hospital emergency room, where they can receive salts and fluids through a vein (intravenously) rather than by mouth. Intravenous hydration provides the body with water and essential nutrients much more quickly than oral solutions do — something that's essential in life-threatening situations.
Dehydration (thirst) can be life threatening. Make sure older adults have enough good drinking water, and be sure they drink it. Older adults can be at risk for dehydration because of
a decreased thirst sensation and do not feel the urge to drink as often as younger people.
medications that increase the risk of dehydration.
physical conditions that make it difficult to drink.
Also, exposure to microorganisms in unsafe water can make people sick, and may cause diarrhea which increases the risk of dehydration.
75% of the body is made up of water
80% of the brain is made up of water
75% of the muscles are made up of water
92% of the blood is made up of water
Water carries nutrients and oxygen to all cells in the body
Water helps convert food into energy
Water regulates body temperature
1% dehydration results in thirst
There is a 10% decrease in your mental performance when you feel thirsty
2% dehydration reduces your ability to work
4% dehydration results in lethargy, apathy and mental symptoms
If you are dehydrated you are more likely to have trouble concentrating, be more irritable and have more headaches
Long-term effects of being dehydrated include kidney and urinary tract infections, constipation, continence problems, and kidney stones.
Drinking more water helps reduce obesity and bed-wetting in children
If you are well hydrated, exercise feels more and more enjoyable.