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Signs of Dehydration and How to Treat It

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Reviewed by: Amy Surdam

When the sun starts to shine, it’s hard not to want and go enjoy spending time outside. But, along with the sun comes the heat, which can cause severe complications like dehydration. 

Health professionals constantly talk about the importance of hydration for athletes. However, dehydration is caused by numerous factors and can happen to anyone. When the temperatures start rising, it’s essential to be on the lookout for the warning signs and know what precautions you should take. 

Continue reading to discover the causes of dehydration, what to do if you’re dehydrated and how to prevent dehydration from interrupting your summer activities. 

What Causes Dehydration?

Dehydration occurs when your body loses or uses more fluids than you put back into it. When this happens, your body may not have enough water to perform its regular functions, like carrying nutrients and oxygen to cells or flushing out waste products. 

Everyone can become dehydrated from heat, although certain groups have increased risks, such as older adults, athletes and those with chronic conditions who use certain medications. Children also have increased chances for dehydration through diarrhea, fever or vomiting, as they tend to have higher metabolic rates, causing them to lose water more quickly than adults. 

Typical causes of dehydration include: 

  • Fever: When you have a fever, your body begins sweating to lower your body temperature, which can lead to extreme fluid loss. Without proper hydration, you have a high potential to become dehydrated. 
  • Vomiting: Continuous vomiting can cause significant fluid loss in a short period. Dehydration from vomiting often worsens when individuals cannot keep additional fluids or foods down. 
  • Excessive sweating: While sweating is a natural part of your body’s cooling system, it can cause you to lose large amounts of water and salt through pores in your skin. Whether you’re working outside, playing sports or enduring severe heat, sweating may make you dehydrated due to increased fluid loss. 
  • Increased urination: Those with conditions like diabetes, kidney infections or anxiety disorders may experience high levels of urination from certain prescribed medications, like diuretics, decongestants or antidepressants. With increased fluid loss and added thirst, dehydration is likely without constant hydration. 
  • Diarrhea: With diarrhea, your stool is often watery and loose. However, when you have more than three bowel movements a day and diarrhea persists longer than three days, you could quickly become dehydrated if left untreated. 

What Are the Symptoms of Dehydration? 

Many tend to believe that thirst is a tell-tale sign of being dehydrated. In reality, you’re likely to have already lost two to three percent of your fluids by the time you start feeling thirsty, signifying you’ve been dehydrated for quite some time. So, it’s best to continue to drink fluids even when you aren’t feeling thirsty, especially when performing activities in the heat. 

It’s crucial to know the various symptoms of dehydration as they tend to differ depending on age. Young children are often disadvantaged as they can’t communicate when they’re feeling thirsty or unusually sleepy. They are likely to experience sunken eyes and cheeks, fewer wet diapers, tearless crying and irritability if they are dehydrated. 

Other common signs and symptoms of dehydration include: 

  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Confusion
  • Dark colored urine
  • Headache
  • Dry skin
  • Muscle cramps
  • Feeling thirsty
  • Listlessness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lack of tear or sweat production

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How Can You Prevent Dehydration?

Your hypothalamus acts as an internal thermostat and sends signals to your body to regulate your body temperature. When this temperature begins to rise on hot days, it will send signals to your body to start the process of sweating. When sweat evaporates from your skin, it takes excess heat, bringing your body temperature down to a normal range.

On days with extreme heat, your body’s cooling system may not function efficiently, increasing your body temperature. Doctors regularly highlight the importance of hydration for athletes or those who work outside on these days, suggesting certain precautions to take.

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Consider some of the following tips to prevent dehydration on days when its hot outside: 

  • Drink fluids continuously: It’s essential to drink plenty of water and fluids throughout the day, whether you’re thirsty or not. Experts recommend drinking seven glasses of water daily to remain hydrated, which you should increase on hot days. 
  • Eat foods high in water content: It’s critical to eat a balanced diet, including certain fruits and vegetables, to stay hydrated without drinking water. Foods like watermelon, strawberries, lettuce and zucchini are perfect for hot days to keep you refreshed and hydrated. 
  • Monitor the weather: Pay attention to the weather forecasts and news for heat warnings and recommendations on hot days. It may help to plan your activities around the weather, choosing to stay indoors with air conditioning when your area is experiencing dangerous temperatures. 
  • Wear the right type of clothing: If you have to be outdoors during intense heat, wear appropriate clothing that keeps you cool. Choose loose-fitting clothes to allow your body to breathe, letting sweat evaporate. It’s also smart to pick lighter-colored clothing, which won’t absorb heat like dark colors. 
  • Avoid alcohol: Alcohol is a diuretic, causing your body to remove fluids from your body faster than other liquids. If you choose to consume alcohol on a hot day, make sure you drink a bottle of water between each beverage for proper hydration. 

When Should You Seek Medical Attention? 

Depending on how much water you’re missing from your body, you could endure mild, moderate or severe dehydration. Once you’ve reached the level of severe dehydration, the blood vessels in your brain begin to shrink, leading to memory loss and lack of coordination.

Severe dehydration can also lead to serious complications such as seizures, kidney failure, hypovolemic shock and heatstroke. To prevent these types of complications from occurring, stay on the lookout for danger signs such as: 

  • Nausea
  • Temperature above 103 degrees Farenheit
  • Increased pulse rate
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Dizziness
  • Sunken eyes
  • Fainting

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SouthStar Urgent Care for Dehydration

There’s nothing worse than missing out on a day by the pool because you’re dehydrated. Taking the necessary precautions and consistently drinking fluids will help keep you safe and healthy for whatever you want to do. When you think you or a loved one is showing signs or symptoms of severe dehydration, you can go to SouthStar Urgent Care for dehydration treatment. 

At SouthStar Urgent Care, we provide an array of services, from urgent care to occupational care. Our comprehensive services are offered across 30 locations in Louisiana, supported by our dedicated team of professionals. With their help and our daily availability, we live out our promise each day — striving to deliver care that is personal. 

You can trust our professionals to restore your control over your health care the way it should be. Find a SouthStar location near you and walk in for a visit today! 

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