Even though summer is coming to an end, the heat it's giving off is still taking a toll on each one of us. What does dehydration mean exactly? Well, dehydration occurs when you use or lose more fluid than you take in and your body doesn't have enough water or other fluids to carry out its normal functions. If you are unable to replace lost fluids, you will get dehydrated.
Common causes of dehydration include vigorous exercise; intense diarrhea; vomiting; fever or excessive sweating. Not consuming enough water during exercise or in hot weather even if you're not exercising also may cause dehydration. You can usually reverse mild to moderate dehydration by drinking more fluids, but severe dehydration needs immediate medical treatment. The safest approach is to prevent dehydration in the first place. Keep an eye on how much fluid you lose during hot weather, illness or exercise, and drink enough liquids to replace what you've lost.
Anyone may become dehydrated, but young children, older adults and people with chronic illnesses are the most at risk. Infants and children are especially vulnerable because of their relatively small body weights and high turnover of water and electrolytes. On the other hand, as you age, you become more susceptible to dehydration. Your thirst sense becomes less acute and you're less able to respond to changes in temperature.
Having uncontrolled or untreated diabetes also puts one at high risk of dehydration. Other chronic illnesses, such as kidney disease and heart failure, make you more likely to become dehydrated. Even having a cold or sore throat makes you more susceptible to dehydration which leads you feeling less interested in eating or drinking when you're sick. A fever is prone to increasing dehydration.
As we all know, anyone who exercises can become dehydrated especially in hot, humid conditions or at high altitudes. Athletes who train for and participate in marathons, triathlons, mountain climbing expeditions and cycling tournaments are at particularly high risk. The longer you exercise, the more difficult it is to stay hydrated. During exercise, your body may lose more water than it can absorb. With every hour you exercise, your fluid debt increases. Dehydration can also be cumulative over a period of days, which means you can become dehydrated with even a moderate exercise routine if you don't drink enough to replace what you lose on a daily basis.
Living, working and exercising at high can also cause a number of health problems. Dehydration is the first, which commonly occurs when your body tries to adjust to high elevations through increased urination and more rapid breathing. The faster you breathe to maintain adequate oxygen levels in your blood, the more water vapor you exhale. When it's hot and humid, your risk of dehydration and heat illness increases. That's because when the air is humid, sweat cannot evaporate and cool you as quickly as it normally does, and this can lead to an increased body temperature and the need for more fluids.
If you’re wondering what could be the symptoms of dehydration, here is a list of what you can expect when experiencing mild dehydration:
● Dry, sticky mouth
● Sleepiness or tiredness — children are likely to be less active than usual
● Decreased urine output
● No wet diapers for three hours for infants
● Few or no tears when crying
● Dry skin
● Dizziness or lightheadedness
As for severe dehydration:
● Extreme thirst
● Extreme fussiness or sleepiness in infants and children; irritability and confusion in adults
● Very dry mouth, skin and mucous membranes
● Little or no urination — any urine that is produced will be darker than normal
● Sunken eyes
● Shriveled and dry skin that lacks elasticity and doesn't "bounce back" when pinched into a fold
● In infants, sunken fontanels — the soft spots on the top of a baby's head
● Low blood pressure
● Rapid heartbeat
● Rapid breathing
● No tears when crying
● In the most serious cases, delirium or unconsciousness
When is it the best time to see a doctor?
If you're a healthy adult, you can usually treat mild to moderate dehydration by drinking more fluids, such as water or water with lime and sea salt. You should treat children and older adults with greater caution. Call your doctor if they:
● Develop severe diarrhea, with or without vomiting or fever
● Has bloody or black stool
● Has had moderate diarrhea for 24 hours or more
● Can't keep down fluids
● Is irritable or disoriented and much sleepier or less active than usual
● Has any of the signs or symptoms of mild or moderate dehydration
You can help prevent dehydration from becoming severe by carefully monitoring someone who is sick and giving fluids, such as an oral rehydration solution at the first sign of diarrhea, vomiting or fever and by encouraging children to drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise.
No matter what time of the year it is, stay hydrated at all times and prevent yourself from suffering from this unnecessary pain. At Gonzaba Urgent Care in San Antonio, we can assist you with guidance from our trained physicians about how to keep your hydration levels up to par. Call us at 210-921-6600 for any dehydration or any medical issues you may have.