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Dehydration is a condition that occurs when an individual has lost so much fluid that the body can no longer function normally and develops signs and symptoms due to the loss of fluid. You can have mild, moderate, or severe dehydration depending on how much fluid is missing from your body.

CAUSES OF DEHYDRATION

Many conditions may cause rapid and continued fluid losses and lead to dehydration. Some of these conditions include;

1. Fever, heat exposure, too much exercise, or work-related activity

2. Vomiting, diarrhea, and increased urination due to infection

3. Diseases such as diabetes

4. The inability to seek appropriate water and food (an infant or disabled person, for example)

5. An impaired ability to drink (someone in a coma or on a respirator, or a sick infant who cannot suck on a bottle are common examples)

6. No access to safe drinking water

7. Significant injuries to the skin, such as burns or mouth sores, severe skin diseases, or infections (water is lost through the damaged skin)

SYMPTOMS OF DEHYDRATION

The signs and symptoms of dehydration can go from mild or moderate to severe and these signs can be for babies and young children.

1. MILD OR MODERATE DEHYDRATION: Signs include thirst, dry or sticky mouth, Not peeing very much, dark yellow pee, dry cool skin, headache, muscle cramps.

2. SEVERE DEHYDRATION: Severe dehydration is a medical emergency and needs to be treated immediately. Signs include very dark yellow pee, very dry skin, feeling dizzy, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, sunken eyes, sleepiness, lack of energy, confusion or irritability, and fainting.

3. SYMPTOMS FOR BABIES AND YOUNG CHILDREN: These include dry mouth and tongue, no tears when crying, dry diapers for 3 hours, sunken eyes, cheeks, soft spot on the top of the skull, sleepiness, lack of energy, or irritability.

COMPLICATIONS OF DEHYDRATION

Dehydration can lead to serious complications in the body especially if it is not detected in time. Some complications commonly identified in cases of severe dehydration include;

  1. Problems with the kidney and often leading to urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and even kidney failure.
  2. Heat injury often caused by excessive exercise and perspiration. This ranges in severity from mild heat cramps to heat exhaustion or potentially life-threatening heatstroke.
  3. Low blood volume shock (hypovolemic shock) which is one of the most serious, and sometimes life-threatening, complications of dehydration. It occurs when low blood volume causes a drop-in blood pressure and a drop in the amount of oxygen in your body.
  4. Seizures due to electrolyte imbalance (potassium and sodium) and can lead to involuntary muscle contractions and sometimes to a loss of consciousness.

PREVENTING DEHYDRATION

To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of fluids and eat foods high in water such as fruits and vegetables. Letting thirst be your guide is an adequate daily guideline for most healthy people.

People who experience diarrhoea, feeling of vomiting, engage in strenuous exercises, or are diagnosed of some diseases such as bronchitis, bladder infections or influenza virus may need to take in more fluids than other persons.

TREATING DEHYDRATION

Dehydration must be treated by replenishing the fluid level in the body. This can be done by consuming clear fluids such as water. Some dehydrated patients, however, will require intravenous fluids in order to rehydrate. Dehydrated persons should avoid drinks containing caffeine such as coffee, tea, and sodas.

Also, conditions that are causing dehydration should also be treated with the appropriate medication. This may include medication available to purchase over-the-counter such as anti-diarrhea medicines, anti-emetics (stop vomiting), and anti-fever medicines.

Source: Mayo Clinic, WebMD, and Medical News today.

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