When someone mentions dehydration, what comes to mind is when an individual does not take enough fluids. While this is a common belief, dehydration doesn’t necessarily come from a lack of fluid intake. Dehydration occurs when there is a fluid imbalance that may arise from severe vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding, urination, sweating, or simply not taking enough water.
Dehydration in children is much more catastrophic than in adults because of the low blood volume that kids have compared to adults. Therefore, a small loss of blood volume could cause dehydration in children. Children are also more at risk of dehydration because they are more active and sweat than adults. Their bodies lose a lot of fluid through sweat, so they must frequently replenish their fluid levels.
Severe dehydration is still a serious condition that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Severe dehydration involves the loss of 15 percent or more body weight due to fluid loss and other critical factors such as low blood pressure and low blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia). The symptoms include:
Reduced Body Secretions
Reduced body secretions occur when the body has difficulty maintaining water and electrolyte homeostasis. As a response, the body will minimize the production of bodily fluid secretions like saliva and tears. This may manifest as:
- Dry eyes and mouth
- Dry skin
- Dry mucous membranes
The skin will feel dry to the touch, and the mouth will also feel dry due to a lack of saliva production by the salivary glands. Dehydration can cause cracks in the skin that can easily become infected. Alternatively, dehydration leads to other health problems, such as constipation or urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Thirst is among the first signals that the body is trying to rehydrate itself. The body tries to maintain homeostasis by signaling the individual to drink more. The thirst sensation will manifest as a frequent urge to drink fluids.
Production of Dark Concentrated Urine
Kidneys are the primary excretory organs that remove toxins. They also play a crucial role in fluid balance by regulating the amount of water excreted. When you are dehydrated, the kidneys try to reduce the amount of water excreted by facilitating water reabsorption from the urine. This results in dark-colored urine that is highly concentrated with toxins. It will also manifest in fewer visits to the toilet.
Weakness and Fatigue
Loss of bodily fluid causes weakness and fatigue, affecting the central nervous system and brain functionality. The muscles will feel weaker and less able to do physical work, while the brain will feel fatigued, making it difficult to think clearly or remember things.
Rapid Breathing and Heart Rate
Dehydration due to excessive sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea reduces blood volume and increases heart rate and breathing rates. Both of these symptoms are due to the loss of fluid volume in the body, which affects blood flow through the heart, lungs, and other organs to function properly. In addition, blood pressure drops due to dehydration which leads to rapid breathing and increases heart rate because of the increased demand for oxygen.
Confusion and Hallucinations
The brain is deprived of oxygen as the blood pressure drops in the body. This causes confusion, difficulty concentrating, and even hallucinations.
In young children, dehydration will present as:
- Reduced frequency of changing the diapers
- The baby will cry, but no tears are seen
- Cold clammy skin
- Dry mouth
- Sunken eyes
In adults, dehydration may present as:
- Dizziness that may lead to fainting
- Muscle cramps
- Flushing of the skin, especially if dehydration is due to heatwave exposure
- Low blood pressure and low blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia) can cause a person to feel weak, tired, dizzy, and confused
These symptoms can be easily reversed by drinking water or other fluids. For example, if you have a headache, simply drinking water will relieve the problem within minutes. However, if you have severe dehydration, you must seek medical help immediately because it can be life-threatening. Call us at 205-352-9141.