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Signs Of Dehydration and How to Treat It

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Reviewed by: Amy Surdam, FNP, LTC

Summer is the perfect time to get outdoors and enjoy activities in the sun. But whether playing sports, exercising or hiking in nature, it’s essential to take proper precautions to avoid dehydration.

Health providers often stress the importance of hydration for athletes since it can occur from excessive sweating and vigorous exercise. Hot temperatures often speed up the process and cause rapid water loss. Keep reading to learn dehydration causes, what to do if you’re dehydrated and prevention tips to help you enjoy the rest of your summer safely.

Dehydration Causes

Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluids than it takes in. You can become dehydrated when your body does not replace lost fluids, resulting in a struggle in its ability to perform normal functions. Unsurprisingly, sweating can make you dehydrated, as can frequent urination

Anyone can become dehydrated, though the condition is especially hazardous for children and older adults. Older adults experience a decline in total body fluid, meaning they have fewer water reserves for their bodies to use as they age. Some people might also have health conditions or take medications that increase their risk of dehydration.

Common Causes of Dehydration | Urgent Care Near Me

The most common causes of dehydration include: 

  • Diarrhea and vomiting: The most common cause of dehydration in young children is severe diarrhea and vomiting. Bowel movements can cause a significant decrease in water levels if left untreated. Constant vomiting can also cause a considerable amount of water loss and electrolytes in a short amount of time.
  • Medications: Certain medications may pull water from the body or cause fluid loss from side effects like diarrhea or vomiting. Laxatives for constipation, type 2 diabetes medication and certain high blood pressure drugs are all examples of medications that may cause dehydration.
  • Health conditions: Even minor illnesses, such as lung or bladder infections, can cause dehydration in older adults. And for those with diabetes, elevated blood sugar levels can cause sugar to enter the urine as well as excess water. This causes frequent urination, more thirst and potentially dehydration.
  • Fever: Generally, the higher your fever, the more dehydrated you can become. This condition can worsen if the fever is accompanied by diarrhea and vomiting. 
  • Burns: Our skin protects us against fluid and electrolyte loss while regulating our body temperature. When burned, we can become dehydrated since water seeps into the damaged skin from inside the body, causing fluid loss. 
  • Excess sweating: Many body movements and functions can cause water loss and sweating, though warm environments often worsen this effect. An intense workout increases sweat production, which causes significant water loss. Additionally, hot or humid weather increases the amount of sweat and fluids you lose. 

While reversing mild to moderate dehydration by drinking more water is possible, severe dehydration requires immediate medical attention.

Dehydration Symptoms

The symptoms of dehydration can differ depending on age. The body will initially respond to dehydration by reducing urine output to conserve water. It will then send thirst signals to the brain and cause urine to appear dark yellow due to increased urea concentration. 

Common symptoms of dehydration include: 

  • Increased thirst.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Fatigue.
  • Dizziness.
  • Confusion.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Dark-colored urine.
  • Cessation of tear and sweat production. 

Thirst isn’t always a reliable indicator of dehydration. Many people, especially older adults, won’t feel thirsty until they’re already dehydrated. That’s why drinking more water is essential when it’s hot outside or when you’re ill. 

You’ll also want to keep in mind the symptoms of dehydration in young children, which can include sunken eyes or cheeks, listlessness and dry mouth and tongue. 

When to Seek Medical Attention

In the final stages of dehydration, the body’s organs will receive less blood which can cause confusion and weakness. If left untreated, dehydration can lead to life-threatening conditions such as organ failure, coma, heatstroke, urinary and kidney problems and seizures. That’s why it’s essential to learn the danger signs of dehydration to know when to seek immediate medical attention:

  • Not urinating or having very dark yellow urine
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heartbeat and breathing
  • Confusion or irritability
  • Sunken eyes
  • Very dry skin
  • Sleepiness or lack of energy
  • Fainting

You can go to urgent care for dehydration, where health care providers will rehydrate your body to prevent emergency health problems. If drinking water doesn’t help immediately or isn’t possible due to illness or injury, providers may administer an intravenous fluid (IV) to help you rehydrate.

How to Prevent Dehydration

Physicians often emphasize the hydration importance for athletes, especially when playing sports outdoors in the hot sun. When it’s hot and humid, your sweat won’t evaporate and cool you as quickly as it usually does, causing increased body temperature and a need for more fluids. 

To prevent yourself from becoming dehydrated from heat, it’s essential to follow a few of these tips before heading outside:

  1. Keep water on you: The easiest way to deter dehydration is to ensure you have plenty of water on you at all times. Let thirst be your guide, and ensure you’re drinking plenty of fluids and eating foods high in water, such as fruits and vegetables, throughout the day. 
  2. Avoid outdoor exposure on hot days: Check the weather forecast for high heat index and prepare yourself when going outdoors for extended activities, such as sports. Avoiding exercise and outdoor exposure will help you stay safe when temperatures are too high. 
  3. Avoid alcohol consumption: It’s essential to realize the danger of consuming alcohol on hot days. Alcohol consumption causes your body to lose water at a quicker rate than other liquids. It can also impair your ability to recognize early signs of dehydration, so it’s best to avoid it — especially during hot weather. 
  4. Wear loose-fitting clothing: If you must venture outdoors on high-temperature days, ensure that you wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing to avoid excessive sweating. You might also bring along a personal fan or mister to circulate air and keep yourself cool.

BestMed Urgent Care for Dehydration

Staying hydrated in the summer can prevent dehydration and keep you comfortable outdoors. If you or a loved one shows signs of severe hydration, it’s essential to seek immediate medical treatment.

BestMed Urgent Care offers same-day and walk-in urgent care access to help treat various medical conditions. Our comprehensive care reaches across the wellness spectrum, including urgent, and primary care. With our compassionate health providers and over 30 clinics, we aim to provide affordable, accessible and high-quality health care to individuals and families in the Northwest.

Find a BestMed location near you today!

BestMed Urgent Care for Dehydration | Urgent Care Near Me