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Dehydration: What Causes It and How to Avoid It
More than 50% of your body is made up of water, making adequate hydration extremely significant to your health. Water helps your body by aiding in digestion, delivering oxygen to organs, and balancing your body temperature.2
Dehydration can affect anyone at any age; however, it’s more common in older adults. There are many different situations that can cause dehydration, from medical conditions to intense heat.
Here are some facts about dehydration, what causes it, how it affects the body, and how you can prevent dehydration.
What is Dehydration?
Dehydration is when you have an absence, or a dangerous lack of, water throughout the body, especially in the blood vessels and cells. If you’re dehydrated, you’re using and losing more fluid than what you’re taking in.2
A small amount of water loss can cause dehydration, such as 1.5% of your body’s water. Symptoms of dehydration can range from mild to severe, and many people may not even realize they are dehydrated.
However, dehydration can cause serious illnesses and harm the body if left untreated.
What Causes Dehydration?
- Not drinking enough fluid. Not drinking enough fluids is the main cause of dehydration. This may be because you’re not thirsty, you’re busy, you’re sick, you may not have access to safe water, or maybe you’re not prepared for trips (camping, for example).
- Sweating. Sweating is your body’s way of naturally cooling down. Sweating can occur when it’s hot outside or when you’re active. Excessive sweating can cause you to lose a large amount of water, and can lead to dehydration if you’re not replenishing your body with water and electrolytes.4
- Vomiting and diarrhea. These two kinds of illnesses can cause you to lose a lot of fluid and electrolytes in a short amount of time, which leads to dehydration.
- Fever. When you’re sick and have a fever, your body loses fluid through the skin’s surface because it’s trying to cool the body down. This can lead to dehydration.4
- Increased urination. Frequent urination can cause dehydration if you’re not replenishing your body with fluid. Increased urination may be caused by certain medications, such as blood pressure medication or diuretics, or simply because you’re drinking a lot of fluids.
- Chronic illnesses and sickness. Certain health conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, and a sore throat, can increase your risk of dehydration.
What are the Signs of Dehydration?
Some noticeable signs and symptoms can warn you if your body is becoming dehydrated. The most common and less dangerous symptoms occur early on, including thirst and dark urine. If you notice these two signs, it’s important to drink more water to prevent severe dehydration.5
If you progressively become more dehydrated, you may notice more severe symptoms including:
- Dry mouth
- Muscle weakness
- Lack of energy
- Dry skin
- Low blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
If you’re experiencing severe symptoms and cannot consume the appropriate amount of water or fluids to lessen or relieve your symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
How Does Dehydration Affect the Body?
- Dehydration affects the brain. Severe dehydration can cause the blood vessels in the brain to shrink, which can affect your memory and coordination.
- Dehydration affects the heart. Dehydration can cause your heart to work harder since there’s not enough water in the blood.
- Dehydration affects the kidneys. Dehydration will cause your kidneys to hold onto urine because there’s less water in the blood.
How to Prevent Dehydration
Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to prevent dehydration. You simply have to drink enough fluids and be aware of your fluid loss.
Here are some tips to help you stay hydrated and prevent dehydration:
- Drink water. The best way to prevent dehydration is to drink plenty of fluids, especially water. If you’re in the heat or you’re active and sweating a lot, make sure to drink even more water to compensate for what you’re losing. You can monitor your hydration based on your thirst and urine color. Carry a reusable water bottle with you to help you drink more water!
- Replace electrolytes. Replenishing electrolytes is another good tip to prevent dehydration. You can typically do this by the foods you eat, such as fruits, vegetables, and meat, but there are also drinks and supplements to help replenish electrolytes if needed.
- Don’t skip meals. You will naturally intake water while eating regular meals. It’s important to not skip meals and to try to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Foods with high water content include watermelons, cucumbers, apples, lettuce, and peaches.
- Limit fluids that can dehydrate you. Coffee, alcohol, and other caffeinated drinks are considered diuretics, which can cause you to lose more fluid.
- Prepare. If you’re going on a road trip, camping trip, or anywhere else that clean water may not be readily available, make sure to prepare ahead of time. Grab plenty of water bottles or make sure you have a way to filter water so you have clean drinking water.7
Saber Healthcare encourages you and your loved ones to stay hydrated so you can prevent dehydration. Drink plenty of water and make sure to replenish any fluids you lose daily!
Saber Healthcare is an organization that provides services to more than 115 buildings across the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, Delaware, and Florida. To learn more about our company and services, click here.
- “Adult Dehydration.” StatPearls Publishing, National Library of Medicine. May 15th, 2022. Accessed July 28th, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK555956/#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20lay%20press,frequent%20cause%20of%20hospital%20admission.
- “Dehydration.” Cleveland Clinic, clevelandclinic.org. February 16th, 2021. Accessed July 27th, 2022. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/9013-dehydration.
- “Dehydration.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Mayo Clinic. October 14th, 2021. Accessed July 27th, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/symptoms-causes/syc-20354086.
- Kahn, April. “What to Know About Dehydration.” Healthline Media, healthline.com. September 19th, 2019. Accessed July 28th, 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/dehydration.
- Crosta, Peter. “What you should know about dehydration.” Healthline Media, Medical News Today. December 20th, 2017. Accessed July 27th, 2022. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/153363.
- Knowles, Kenneth. “How Does Dehydration Affect the Body?” DispatchHealth Management, dispatchhealth.com. March 10th, 2020. Accessed July 28th, 2022. https://www.dispatchhealth.com/blog/how-does-dehydration-affect-the-body/.
- DerSarkissian, Carol. “How Can I Prevent Dehydration?” WebMD, webmd.com. November 11th, 2021. Accessed July 28th, 2022. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/prevent-dehydration.