Dehydration sets in when a person loses more fluids than he / she can consume. Two thirds or 75 percent of our body weight is made up of water. This water is found within the body cells, in the space between the cells or inside the blood vessels.
What is Dehydration?
A normal person loses water through the process of sweating, through breathing and when they urinate or pass feces. The human body contains nearly 12 gallons of water. Water plays an important role for the normal functioning of almost all bodily processes. Every activity that you indulge in including cooking, typing, walking or gardening requires energy. This energy generates heat which escapes from the body through perspiration.
A normal adult loses nearly one and a half liters of water through urination and another liter through breathing. If a person does not replenish all these bodily fluids which are lost during the course of the day he / she can become severely dehydrated.
Causes of Dehydration
There are many factors which can lead to dehydration. People who are suffering from high fever are very likely to become dehydrated. Individuals with diseases like diabetes have a higher risk of suffering from dehydration, especially if they do not take adequate amounts of fluids. Persons suffering from polyuria or the condition where people pass abnormally large amounts of urine may also suffer from dehydration if their fluid intake is reduced.
People who do not have access to safe water and hence try not to drink the water that is available have a higher risk of suffering from dehydration. Infants and disabled people who are dependant on others for getting fluids may also become dehydrated if water or other fluids are not given to them regularly.
Severe heat exposure, especially if a person stands under the scorching sun for extended periods of time can lead to dehydration. People who have suffered massive burn injuries can become dehydrated. Individuals with severe skin infections like oozing sores also have a higher risk of suffering from dehydration.
Signs of Dehydration
There are many subtle and obvious signs through which we can detect whether a person is suffering from dehydration or not. Through this article we will examine the early, mild and severe signs of dehydration.
One of the earliest signs of dehydration is when a person feels extremely thirsty. People who drink water regularly will not feel the urge to drink a lot of water unless they are suffering from some underlying medical problem like diabetes. If a person has that severe urge to drink water and ends up drinking a large amount of fluid, it is an indication that the person has become dehydrated.
Another early warning sign that a person has become dehydrated is if he / she feels excessively tired for no apparent reason. People who feel sluggish or have a ‘foggy brain’ are likely to be suffering from dehydration. People who drink excessive amounts of coffee also become dehydrated very easily. The reason for this is caffeine is a natural diuretic and it increases fluid loss through urination.
So if you have been feeling tired through out the day, instead of hitting the panic button and imagining that you have been afflicted with some dangerous ailment, drink a cup of water and see the magical way it can replenish your lost energy.
Dry Mouth and Cracked Lips
It is often noticed that people who are suffering from dehydration also experience dryness of the mouth and throat. An early sign of dehydration, dry mouth and the parched throat condition can cause a person to have difficulty in swallowing their own saliva.
Another sign of dehydration is when the lips become painfully dry and cracked. As dehydration progresses and the lips become drier it can lead to the formation of painful fissures and this can result in bleeding.
The quantity of urine that is passed reduces when a person suffers from dehydration. The color of the urine also changes and takes on a deep yellowish tinge. There may also be a strong smell to the urine. As the fluid levels in the body decrease, the amount of urine also automatically decreases. Extreme dehydration over a period of time can even affect the normal functioning of the kidneys.
Sunken Appearance of the Eyes
As dehydration progresses from mild to severe, a person’s general appearance also becomes affected. The normal bright and clear eyes of a healthy individual slowly take on a sunken appearance with dark circles surrounding the eyes as a result of dehydration.
An individual who is dehydrated appears tired and lethargic. Another secondary effect of dehydration is that the production of tears may completely stop. This is the body’s natural mechanism of holding back whatever fluid is left inside the system.
When adequate measures are not taken to control dehydration in the early stages it can progress and reach a stage where a person begins to feel woozy. The best way to detect whether the feeling of light headedness is indeed associated with dehydration is to make the patient lie down. Even after lying down if the patient continues to feel dizzy then it can be established that the individual is suffering from acute dehydration.
Another sign of dehydration is when the pulse rate suddenly increases and the person starts breathing rapidly. This is the body’s natural way of indicating that the fluid levels inside the body are decreasing. Often rapid breathing is accompanied by a feeling of light headedness.
Hot and Dry or Cold and Sticky Skin
The skin either becomes cold and clammy or very hot and dry to the touch. This is an indication that the dehydration has progressed and reached a dangerous stage. The person has to be re hydrated immediately to prevent any secondary health complication from arising.
Loss of Consciousness
The final stage of dehydration where it has reached an uncontrollable level is when the patient finally loses consciousness. When this happens it is advisable to get proper medical help. In this case just orally re hydrating the person may not be enough. The doctor may advise that the patient be put on an intravenous saline drip. The best way to prevent dehydration and the complications arising from it is by drinking water at regular intervals whether you are feeling thirsty or not.
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