What is Dehydration, how can it be treated and avoided?

July 13, 2009

The human body is a dynamic and ever changing entity which is made up of mainly water – around 75% of it. Temperature, exercise and general health can all effect our body’s water content drastically. If we lose more water from our bodies than we take in, we become dehydrated. Breathing, sweating and urinating all effect our body’s water content and we need to replenish this loss by hydration with a significant amount of fresh water or dehydration symptoms become quickly apparent.

Thirst is one of the first signs that our body needs water. Alcohol and diuretics such as tea and coffee should be avoided.

A significant cause of dehydration is diarrhea which kills millions each year and children are the biggest casualties. Vomiting too causes loss of fluid which is difficult to replace through drinking and sweating can cause a significant loss of body fluids especially if exercising in warm weather.

Other than an increased thirst, the biggest sign of dehydration is a reduction in the urge to urinate as our bodies try to conserve fluids. Our urine becomes very yellow or even orange and is usually accompanied by a strong odour. A dry mouth, muscle cramps and nausea or vomiting may also become apparent and we may also become light headed.

Unless measures are taken to reverse the symptoms of dehydration, the normal amount of blood reaching our brain and other organs will significantly reduce until our bodies are no longer able to function and we slip into a coma

As with any ailment or disease, prevention is the best medicine. If this is not possible then fluid replacement is top of the list to treat the symptoms, by mouth initial and intravenously if more severe. Whichever way, we need to hydrate our bodies and should drink plenty but not to excess as this can cause us even more damage. Electrolytes are commonly used to boost the replacement of fluids in extreme cases and aid rehydration. The best rule is to seek medical attention if at all worried.

Shock, kidney failure, coma and death are common in extreme cases where symptoms go untreated. Medical treatment is a must!

Who’s most susceptible to dehydration? People who exercise in hot weather, pediatric and geriatrics – kids and old people, and those with heat related conditions such as heat rash, heat cramp, heat stroke and heat exhaustion are most at risk and can easily dehydrate, although people of any age can fall victim. Keeping well hydrated at all times is the best policy. Kids are terrible for not drinking enough fluids and so you should keep your child safe by insisting on regular fluid intake to keep them safe and healthy.

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