When your body is dehydrated, it doesn't have as much water and fluids as it should. Dehydration may be caused by not drinking enough fluids, losing too much fluid, or both. Depending on how much of the body's fluid is not replenished or is lost, dehydration can be mild, moderate, or severe. Severe dehydration is a life-threatening emergency. Vomiting, diarrhea, excessive urine output, excessive sweating, and fever all cause fluid loss in the body. Nausea, loss of appetite during illness, and sore throat or mouth sores may cause you to not drink enough fluids. Symptoms of dehydration include:
Dry or sticky mouth
Decreased or no urine output
Urine that appears dark yellow
Lack of tearing
Lethargy and coma (in severe dehydration)
In infants, the soft spot on the top of the head (fontanelle) will be markedly sunken
Children and the elderly have a higher risk of developing dehydration.
First Aid for Dehydration
You can correct mild dehydration by the following methods:
Frequent small amounts of fluid, rather than drinking a large amount of fluid all at once, which may cause vomiting. Electrolyte solutions are especially effective, but avoid sport drinks that contain sugar that may cause or worsen diarrhea. Also avoid plain water for rehydrating infants and children; instead, use commercial electrolyte solutions such as Pedialyte.
Hospitalization and intravenous fluids are sometimes necessary for moderate to severe dehydration, as well as to treat the cause of the dehydration. Call 911 for symptoms including:
Lack of tears
In an infant less than two months old, diarrhea or vomiting, little or no urine output in an eight-hour period, sunken eyes, dry skin that stays up like a tent when pinched into a fold (called skin tenting), dry mouth or eyes, sunken soft spot (fontanelle), rapid heartbeat, blood in the stool or vomit, or listlessness and inactiveness.
Everyone should drink plenty of fluid every day and more during hot weather and while exercising. While ill, don't wait for signs of dehydration; attempt to push fluids or get medical attention.
Don't wait till you are thirsty to drink fluids. Instead stay hydrated, because it takes two hours for fluids to have any effect on your body, and by the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated.