The fact that roughly two-thirds of the human body consists of water points to how important adequate water and proper hydration are to your overall health. A person becomes dehydrated when the amount of water in the body drops below what is needed to keep all of the vital organs and other bodily functions working properly. Severe dehydration can be life threatening. Although it is usually preventable, when dehydration is left untreated, a person might suffer from severe enough kidney failure to warrant a kidney transplant.
Common Causes of Dehydration
There are many diseases, conditions and activities that can lead to dehydration. People who suffer chronic from diarrhea lose fluids and electrolytes, and unless the lost fluids are replenished, a person could potentially suffer from dehydration. For elderly people, individuals with chronic health problems, infants and small children, dehydration caused by long-term diarrhea may turn into a life-threatening health crisis.
Vomiting can also lead to dehydration because of loss of bodily fluids that way. Because of the nausea associated with vomiting, a person may not feel inclined to eat or drink, which can exacerbate the situation and cause or worsen dehydration.
People who engage in excessive exercise are also prone to dehydration because of the loss of body fluids from sweating. People who use diuretics to control blood pressure may also be at increased risk for suffering from dehydration because of the way the drugs work. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to excessive urine output, which is another potential cause of dehydration.
Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration
The symptoms of dehydration differ in children and adults. The signs of dehydration in adults may include excessive thirst, lower than usual urine output, urine that is dark-colored, fatigue, dizziness, dry skin and lightheadedness. In children and infants, signs include crying without tears, a dry mouth and tongue, a soft spot on the skull or sunken cheeks and/or eyes, a dry diaper for three or more hours, a high fever and listlessness and irritability.
Effects of Dehydration
Dehydration can affect the human body in a wide range of ways. An individual may suffer from headaches, low blood pressure, or exhibit a change in mental status. Other important indicators are tachycardia or rapid heartbeat. The severity of these symptoms may require immediate medical attention.
In severe cases, untreated dehydration can lead to permanent kidney damage. The color and smell of urine can be indicators of dehydration. Normal urine is clear light-yellow. Urine with a dark color, a strong odor or a burning sensation while urinating can all be further evidence of dehydration.
Kidney Function in Relation to Dehydration
The kidneys are responsible for maintaining the balance of water retained by the body versus what’s eliminated by the body. They are so effective at keeping the balance in check that the amount of water in a healthy person’s body does not change by more than 0.2 percent of their body weight during a 24-hour period.
People who suffer from burns or trauma, those who experience a high fever or diarrhea, and those who are physically active for long periods of time or are subjected to very hot weather are more likely to become dehydrated. Athletes, especially wrestlers who are forced to make weight by reducing water weight, run the risk of damaging their kidneys.
Tips to Avoid Dehydration
For most people, dehydration is easily avoidable.
- Drinking more hydrating liquid than the body expels is one of the healthiest way to prevent dehydration.
- Athletes who work out for long sessions need to keep themselves hydrated and monitor themselves for any signs of dehydration.
- Elderly people who are more likely to suffer from dehydration can also do their part to prevent it by drinking plenty of fluids.
- Dehydration from extremely hot weather, extended outdoor work or athletic activities can be prevented by avoiding caffeine, carbonated soft-drinks and alcoholic beverages.
- Water and electrolyte-enhanced sports beverages are helpful for maintaining adequate hydration.
Summer is on its way, and that means high heat and merciless sun. Be proactive and avoid putting yourself in a precarious position when it comes to your health. Make proper hydration a priority in your life and your body will thank you for it. Take care of yourself!