What is Dehydration?
Dehydration is the loss of water and essential salts that your body needs in order to function properly. When more water and salts leave the body than the amount coming in, dehydration can quickly occur. Our bodies are largely made up of water with it comprising up to 75% of our body weight.
It is therefore no surprise that dehydration can be a serious condition, especially in infants, children and the elderly. Dehydration can be caused by a number of factors and conditions, although the most common causes of dehydration include not drinking enough water, strenuous physical activity, vomiting or diarrhea, and consumption of alcohol.
When dehydration occurs, it causes a number of unpleasant symptoms which vary depending on the severity. While thirst is one of the obvious first effects, it is not always an accurate gauge of the bodies need for water, especially in young children or the elderly.
Symptoms to look out for include:
- Dry, sticky mouth
- Muscle cramps or spasms
- Decreased urine output
- Few or no tears when crying
- Muscle weakness
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
What Causes Dehydration?
Dehydration occurs when not enough fluids are being taken in or too much fluid is being lost, and it is often a combination of the two.
There are a number of things that can contribute to dehydration including:
- not drinking enough water throughout the day
- excessive sweating
- hot temperatures
- consumption of alcohol
Diagnosing dehydration will involve a detailed history and description of symptoms as well as a thorough examination in order to rule out other conditions and determine the underlying cause. In some cases, blood tests may be performed to determine if there are any electrolyte abnormalities.
The following symptoms could be signs of severe
dehydration which is medical emergency:
- Extreme thirst
- Irritability and confusion
- Very dry mouth, skin and mucous membranes
- Lack of sweating
- Little or no urination
- Dark yellow or amber urine
- Sunken eyes
- Skin that lacks elasticity and when pinched it doesn’t "bounce back"
- Sunken fontanels in infants
- Low blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- In very serious cases, delirium or unconsciousness can occur
Help for Dehydration
The treatment of dehydration involves replacing lost fluids and the means of doing this will often depend on factors such as age and severity of the condition. In many cases, treating dehydration will simply involve drinking more water and avoiding certain foods and beverages, such as alcohol, coffee and high salt foods. Other treatments include sports drinks to replace lost electrolytes and oral rehydration solutions, and in more serious cases intravenous fluids may be necessary.
While drinking water is the first step to rehydration, there are also a number of natural ingredients that can ease some of the symptoms of dehydration while helping the body to restore balance of essential electrolytes.
Ingredients such as Calc Phos. and Mag phos help to reduce the muscle cramps so commonly associated with dehydration, while Rux tox can be used to ease stiffness and joint pain. Nux vom. helps restore important salts lost during dehydration, reduce muscle cramps and is especially good for those that become dehydrated from drinking too much coffee and alcohol.
Other useful ingredients include Kali phos which helps to ease the nerves and is very beneficial for those suffering from physical and mental exhaustion. Lastly, Chamomilla and China both help to treat headaches often caused by dehydration while also working to calm the nervous system.
More Information on Dehydration
Tips for dehydration
- Step one is simple – drink plenty of water. You should aim at drinking 8 glasses of water per day. It sometimes helps if you keep a bottle of water with you and sip at it slowly through-out the day and fill it up when necessary.
- Don’t wait until you are thirsty before you drink. Thirst is not a good indicator of how much water your body actually needs. Make water drinking a habit.
- Cut down on or avoid beverages such as coffee, tea and alcohol, as they can contribute to dehydration. You should also avoid milk and very sweet drinks until you are rehydrated.
- For those that dislike drinking water, it can be useful to add a small amount of fruit juice to a bottle of water to give it a hint of flavor. A squeeze of lemon juice and a hint of mint also make a refreshing drink.
- Eat a healthy amount of fruit and vegetables as most have very high water content. Bananas are also an excellent source of potassium, which is an electrolyte that is most often lost during excessive exercise.
- Sports drinks are an excellent source of fluids and electrolytes and are recommended if you plan on exercising for longer than one hour.
- Take necessary steps to avoid dehydration in hot weather. Wear loose fitting and absorbent clothing, keep in cool shaded areas when possible, and always use sun block.