Spotting the first signs of dehydration
Dehydration isn’t just reserved for people who’re stranded on a desert island (looking at you, Tom Hanks. The volleyball incident? We remember). It happens all the time, whether you’re at home or heading into town.
Fortunately (and unfortunately), because water is vital for all bodily functions, we can often miss the less obvious signs telling us we aren’t getting enough of it. So, what can be done?
As things continue to heat up (we hope) over the summer months, it’s important to be aware of dehydration and the subtle ways it can sneak its way in. Here are some of the tell-tale signs to watch out for, as well as pro tips to prevent dehydration in yourself or those in your care.
Spotting the first signs
Most of us know that if we feel thirsty or have dark yellow or strong smelling pee, the answer is usually to have a glass or two of water – but these are not the only ways dehydration can announce itself.
If you feel dizzy, headachy, or lightheaded, or if you feel tired a lot even though you’ve been sleeping well, dehydration might be the culprit. You may also have constant dryness in your mouth, lips, or eyes.
Dehydrated people also might find that they’re going number one fewer than four times a day and that when they do, very little pee actually comes out.
How to rehydrate
The question is: what can be done when you suspect you or a loved one is dehydrated? Well, the first step in any health-related response should be to stay calm and reassure whoever is affected. Give them plenty of water, and make sure they drink with small sips at first.
- If the person affected is a small child or a baby, you could feed them water slowly on a spoon; this will avoid the hazard of choking and guarantee the water is appropriately taken.
- Severe dehydration can show up on the outside. Muscle cramps, pale skin, and sunken eyes can be clear signs, especially in kids. Rest and gentle stretching of affected muscles is the best treatment.
- Oral rehydration solutions are available from most pharmacies and drugstores in the US and UK and have easy-to-follow instructions. Do not just mix kitchen salt and water and hope for the best; this will worsen the situation.
- The final straw in treating dehydration if you or the patient feels nauseous or begins fainting is – of course – see your doctor.
Who is at risk?
You're more likely to become dehydrated if you're already suffering from:
- Heatstroke – from being in the sun too long
- Diuretics – medicines that make you pee more
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Doing a lot of sweaty exercises
- A high temperature of 38C or more
- Having drunk too much alcohol
Dehydration in older adults
Older adults are at more significant risk. This is because fluids are already essential to their renal and other crucial systems (which may already be under stress from other conditions). Similarly, medications and special requirements might make fluid intake less consistent and harder to track.
Dizziness and fainting from dehydration can be a dangerous combination and can lead to falls.
If you or yourself are over the age of 60, keep an eye on your hydration. This is especially important for a friend or loved one with Alzheimer’s. Keeping track of certain day-to-day tasks like fluid intake can be a daunting task for some.
Dehydration in children
Kids under five years old should be getting plenty of fluids, and with their heightened activity, it is common for them to become dehydrated.
You should go to a doctor if you see your child has any of these symptoms:
- Seeming drowsy
- Fast breathing
- Having none or few tears when they cry
- Having a soft spot on their head that sinks inwards (sunken fontanelle)
- Having a dry mouth
- Having dark yellow pee or have not had a pee in the last 12 hours
- Having cold and blotchy-looking hands and feet
For young children or babies, it’s advised to continue them on their usual diet and breastfeed, as usual, maybe giving them smaller amounts at first.
They say, “you are what you eat and drink,” and in the case of someone carrying a baby, this is true for two. Dehydration during pregnancy has been linked to certain (sometimes odd) complications, including offspring having a higher appetite for salt after birth.
You can never guarantee what things a baby will be sensitive to, but one assurance is to treat water as your friend. So try to keep an eye out for signs your body is thirsty, especially during the hotter months.
Let's raise our glasses!
We hope some of your dehydration questions have been answered. It’s easy to forget that ‘water safety’ doesn’t start and stop at the swimming pool.
Let’s look out for ourselves and each other and make sure Sangria isn’t the only drink on the table this summer. Cheers! 💦