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Dehydration

What is dehydration?

Find out more about dehydration and it's symptoms.

Author: Natasha Dadour MPH, MPAS, PA-C, Physician Associate.

What is dehydration?

Dehydration is the opposite of hydration or water filled. It refers to a state of depletion in water volume in the body.

What causes Dehydration?

Any loss of bodily fluids potentially causes dehydration. Volume depletion is seen in cases of sweat (water loss via the skin barrier), urine (kidneys filter out toxins and balance water and electrolytes in the blood), vomiting, diarrhea, and/or anemia (decrease in red blood cells which contain oxygen). If an athlete were to work out intensely and not replenish with water, they are at risk of loosing more water via sweating and thus reaching a state of dehydration. If one were to binge drink on alcohol or over caffeinate with coffee or soda, they are at risk for dehydration as alcohol and caffeine are diuretics which causes one to urinate. Traveler’s diarrhea and or food poisoning also threat one’s hydration status when vomiting and diarrhea cause a depletion in electrolytes and water. If one were to not have enough iron stores in their blood (iron deficiency anemia) due to a diet low in animal products, or loose blood in their urine, stool or even heavy menses, they are at risk for dehyration.

What are the symptoms of Dehydration?

The symptoms of dehydration could be so sublte and often times people mistaken their thirst for hunger. Headaches – tension or migraine, palpitations (racey heart rate), dizziness, weakness, confusion, drop in blood pressure, dark and concentrated urine, low urine volume, constipation, cracked skin, chapped lips, muscle cramps, and worsening nausea and vomiting (chicken or the egg scenario where nausea and vomting lead to dehydration but also dehydration in and of itself worsens the symptoms of nausea and vomiting) are all symptoms of dehdyration. To an extreme, dehydration can even lead to abdominal pain, chest pain and or severe mental status disturbance.

What is the treatment for Dehydration?

Depending on the severity of one’s dehdyration, treatment is focused on replenishing one’s losses of fluid and electrolytes. In mild to moderate cases, oral rehydration therapy (ORT) is best. Small and frequent sips of water (50 -100 mL/ kg) over four hours. In severe cases of dehydration, (one’s heart rate is > 99 beats per minute or less than 60 beats per minute, low blood pressure, confusion, abdominal pain and or chest pain, low urine output), intravenous fluid hydration is necessary in hospital setting.

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