Dehydration can be defined as “the excessive loss of water from the body.” Dehydration isn’t as serious a problem for teens as it can be for babies or young children. Dehydration becomes the major problem in an otherwise self-limited illness. Dehydration occurs when you lose more fluid than you take in and your body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions. If lost fluid remains unreplenished, you may suffer serious consequences. Common causes of dehydration include intense bouts of diarrhea, vomiting, fever or excessive sweating. Inadequate intake of water during hot weather or exercise also may deplete your body’s water stores. Anyone may become dehydrated, but young children, older adults and people with chronic illnesses are most at risk. Mild dehydration can cause symptoms such as weakness, dizziness and fatigue. Severe dehydration is a life-threatening medical emergency. Dehydration is classified as mild, moderate, or severe based on how much of the body’s fluid is lost or not replenished. Dehydration symptoms generally become noticeable after 2% of one’s normal water volume has been lost.
Dehydration occurs when the normal water content of your body is reduced. Dehydration can occur at any age, but it is most dangerous for babies, small children, and older adults. Thirst is not a good indicator for when to replace water. This has been seen in marathon runners who are accustomed to running long distances and have conditioned themselves thusly so. Symptoms may be difficult to distinguish from those of the original illness, but in general, the following signs are suggestive of dehydration; increasing thirst, dry mouth, weakness or lightheadedness (particularly if worsening on standing), darkening of the urine, or a decrease in urination. Severe dehydration can lead to changes in the body’s chemistry, kidney failure, and can even become life-threatening. Dehydration produces a decrease in ability to stay alert. Some very rough estimates for water replacements in the cold. Approximately 2 quarts per day, severe cold with heavy exercise, up to 2 gallons.
Dehydration in sick children is often a combination of both — refusing to eat or drink anything while also losing fluid from vomiting, diarrhea, or fever. The best treatment for minor dehydration is drinking water and stopping fluid loss. Water is preferable to sport drinks and other commercially-sold rehydration fluids, as the balance of electrolytes they provide may not match the replacement requirements of the individual. Dehydration is best avoided by drinking plenty of water. Drinking water slightly beyond the needs of the body entails no risk, since the kidneys will efficiently remove any excess water through the urine with a large margin of safety. Drinking fluids is usually sufficient for mild dehydration. It is better to have frequent, small amounts of fluid rather than trying to force large amounts of fluid at one time. A useful rule of thumb for avoiding dehydration in hot or humid environments or during strenuous activity involves monitoring the frequency and character of urination.
Dehydration Prevention and Treatment Tips
1. Oral rehydration products are readily available in most drugstores, and many pharmacies carry their own brands.
2. Avoid certain foods and drinks. Avoid giving your child salty broths, milk especially boiled milk sodas, fruit juices and gelatins.
3. Always encourage the person to drink during an illness, and remember that a person’s fluid needs are greater when that person has fever, vomiting, or diarrhea.
4. Drink plenty of fluids, especially when working or playing in the sun.
5. Drink appropriate sports drinks to help maintain electrolyte balance.
6. Apply ice packs to the groin and armpits.
7. Drink plenty of fluids during outdoor activities, especially on hot days.
8. Wear lightweight, tightly woven, loose-fitting clothing in light colors.
9. Try to spend as much time indoors as possible on very hot and humid days.
10. Avoid exposing skin to excessive cold, such as ice packs or ice water.