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How to Recognize and Treat Dehydration

Dehydration is a simple condition to understand, but one that can lead to a host of complicated problems. Many people may be quick to associate dehydration with athletes, particularly those who exercise outdoors in warm climates. But dehydration can affect anyone at any time, which only highlights why men, women and even children should learn to identify signs of dehydration and what to do should it surface.

What is dehydration?
Dehydration happens when the loss of body fluids, namely water, exceeds the amount of fluids that is taken in. When a person is diagnosed as dehydrated, that typically means his or her body has lost so much fluid that is has begun to lose its ability to function normally.

Who is vulnerable to dehydration?
Anyone can suffer from dehydration, which can be especially dangerous to young children and older adults. The Mayo Clinic notes that older adults, who naturally have a lower volume of water in their bodies, may not feel thirsty until they are already dehydrated, so it’s important that aging men and women understand that thirst is not always the best indicator that they’re becoming dehydrated. Babies may become dehydrated when they get sick with an illness that causes vomiting and diarrhea. But even teens and otherwise healthy adults can suffer from dehydration.

What are the symptoms of dehydration?
Symptoms of dehydration vary with age. Parents of babies and young children should be on the lookout for signs of dehydration, as infants and even toddlers may not be able to communicate that something is wrong. Signs of dehydration in infants and young children include dry mouth and tongue, a lack of tears when crying, sunken eyes and cheeks, and a sunken soft spot on the top of the skull. In addition, babies who produce no wet diapers for three hours may be suffering from dehydration. A sense of listlessness or irritability in infants and young children is another potential indicator of dehydration.

Adults who experience extreme thirst may be suffering from dehydration. Less frequent urination and a dark-colored urine when going to the bathroom also is symptomatic of dehydration. Fatigue, dizziness and confusion are some additional indicators of dehydration in adults.

Can dehydration be prevented?
Dehydration can affect anyone, but there are ways to prevent it, even among those people who are especially susceptible to dehydration, such as children and older adults.

Parents of babies who are vomiting or experiencing diarrhea should speak with their pediatricians and discuss the ways to prevent such children from becoming dehydrated.

Breastfeeding more frequently and giving the baby a medicine such as Pedialyte® can prevent the occurrence of dehydration in babies who are sick. Mayo Clinic recommends parents take a proactive approach to preventing dehydration in young children, meaning they should not wait until dehydration occurs or symptoms of dehydration present themselves before taking action.

Adults who want to prevent dehydration should drink plenty of fluids and include lots of fruits and vegetables in their diets. Such foods contain lots of water and can help the body avoid becoming dehydrated.

Mayo Clinic recommends that athletes begin hydrating the day before engaging in strenuous exercise. A telltale sign of a well-hydrated body is clear, diluted urine. Athletes should replenish their fluids during exercise and continue doing so even after they finish working out or competing.

Older adults should make a concerted effort to drink more fluids when suffering from minor illnesses, which is when they most commonly become dehydrated. Drink extra water when battling influenza, bronchitis or bladder infections, remembering that feelings of thirst often surface only after the body has become dehydrated.

Dehydration is a serious yet preventable threat to men, women and children. Learn more at mayoclinic.org.

Courtesy of MCC

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