Dehydration Effects - They can be devastating!

So how bad are dehydration effects? Well, considering that your body is 75% water, the effects can be profound. Muscles are 75% water, blood is 82% water, the lungs are 90% water, your brain is 85% water and even your bones are 25% water. In the short term, your body is able to ration water if your level of dehydration is minimal, but over the long term, even mild chronic dehydration can cause serious problems. Below are the short term effects.

Mild Short-Term Dehydration (1-5% fluid loss)

  • headaches
  • muscle pain, cramps, and weakness
  • fatigue and mental fogginess
  • difficulty concentrating
  • tiredness and crankiness
  • decreased reaction time
  • thirst, often interpreted as hunger
  • sugar/carbohydrate cravings
  • decreased urine, dark yellow to orange
  • decreased blood pressure
  • constipation
  • face flushing

Moderate Dehydration (5-10% may need IV fluid replacement)

  • very little dark urine output
  • tingling in limbs (parasthesias)
  • dizziness and fainting with standing
  • extreme sleepiness or lethargy
  • loss of hunger
  • dry mouth
  • episodes of "visual snow"
  • rapid heart rate
  • trouble breathing (asthma symptoms)
  • nausea

Symptoms of Severe Dehydration (10-15% Medical emergency)

  • no or painful urine output
  • spastic muscles
  • unconsciousness/fainting
  • delirium
  • seizures
  • dimming vision
  • sunken eyes
  • swelling of tongue
  • death (at 15% dehydration)

Treatment of Dehydration

Short term dehydration should be treated with immediate replenishment of fluids lost with pure water and some salt (preferably a high quality sea salt) at a level of 1/4 teaspoon of salt for every 5 glasses of water. In more severe cases, you can add a little glucose or regular table sugar to help increase the absorption rate of the water. Moderate dehydration may require medical intervention and IV replacement of fluids and electrolytes. If you have symptoms of severe dehydration, that is a medical emergency. Call 911, because this is a life threatening condition that will need IV fluid and electrolyte replacement, and patient monitoring. Dehydration is the number one cause of death in children worldwide... usually secondary to diarrhea and vomiting. Find out more about dehydration treatment.

Dehydration Effects in Pregnancy

During pregnancy, dehydration occurs more easily and is more dangerous. It can also increase common discomforts of pregnancy, such as nausea and heartburn.

Dehydration Effects in Children

Kids often resist drinking water. (I know mine do!) They are too busy... It doesn't taste good... etc. How do you know if your children are dehydrated? What symptoms should you be watching for? I have some suggestions for how to prevent dehydration in kids and infants.

Next, check out my section on chronic dehydration.

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