- With severe dehydration, call for emergency help: If you, your child, or someone you know has symptoms of severe dehydration (dry mouth, sunken eyes, reluctance to drink, inability to pass urine or cry tears, high fever, lethargy, confusion, cold hands and feet, rapid and weak pulse, rapid breathing, (in infants, a sunken fontanel) — call for emergency help and have the person sip a electrolyte-replacement fluid (for babies or children, one that’s made especially for them such as Pedialyte).
Dehydration is a worldwide problem: It’s our belief that most people in this world don’t get nearly enough water to drink throughout the day. People most at risk:
|People in countries with insufficient clean water to drink|
|Children who are old enough to talk but not old enough to understand about thirst|
|People who are relying on coffee, tea, soft drinks, juice, and alcohol (all dehydrators) for their liquid|
|New mothers — especially nursing mothers|
|Athletes (athletes can easily burn through more water in their bodies than they replace)|
|People for whom physical labor is a large part of their daily routine|
|People whose work keeps them on the move and/or on their feet|
|People whose daily routine (or company policy) prevents them from keeping liquid nearby|
|People who are ill, feverish, vomiting, or who have diarrhea (especially people with weakened immune systems from illnesses such as cancer or AIDS)|
|Babies and children who aren’t given enough liquid|
|People who are overheated and sweating profusely|
|Mentally or physically disabled children and adults|
|Seniors — especially seniors in nursing homes and seniors who don’t move around well|
|People with an eating disorder — especially those using diuretics or laxatives|
|People who are abusing drugs or prescription medications|
|People eating an excessive amount of salt|
|People traveling, working or living in an arid, humid, hot, cold or high-altitude environment|
|Airplane travelers (airplane air dehydrates more quickly than outside air)|
How it affects you: Being well-hydrated is important to your physical and mental health. Dehydration makes a person tired, cranky, and stiff-jointed. Being dehydrated can bring on headaches, nausea, aches and cramps — and other, more serious physical ailments. Dehydration can make it more difficult for parents to be patient with children and with each other. Severe dehydration can cause seizures, coma, or even death.
How it affects your child: The little ones, especially, forget to drink or to tell you that they need to drink. If you find the children getting peaked and cranky toward the afternoon, it might be because they’re dehydrated. Common symptoms of dehydration are crankiness, headaches, aches in the joints and weariness. If your child says he/she is thirsty, don’t make the child wait for liquid. Dehydration has already begun. Remember: severe dehydration can quickly kill a baby or child.
Have you heard the saying that 8 glasses of water a day helps keep your skin healthy? It’s true, but there are other benefits to getting those 8 glasses or more:
|Boosts physical and mental endurance.|
|Helps maintain a pleasant demeanor. Dehydrated adults and children tend to be irritable and/or lethargic.|
|Helps prevent muscle cramps in your legs, hands, and feet — and achy stiffness in your joints.|
|Can prevent headaches. Are you prone to migraines, cluster headaches? Ask yourself how much water you drink in a day. If it isn’t at least 48 ounces (preferably more), you might be dehydrated.|
|Some studies show hydration can decrease the risk of kidney stones and lower the risk of certain cancers by helping the body to flush out toxins.|
|Helps keep your digestive system working. Fluids soften the stools, making them easier to pass.|
|Helps prevent urinary tract infections by helping to flush away bacteria.|
|Helps keep pregnant women from being constipated — and it can also help the body flush away excess fluid that can lead to bloating and edema (swelling).|
|Helps nursing women with milk production. If you are having a problem with milk supply, ask yourself how much water you’re drinking.|
|Helps keep your eyes and skin moist and healthy. When the body is dehydrated, it looks for moisture from wherever it can find it — including the eyes and skin.|
|Can help asthmatics breathe more efficiently, according to experts. Apparently, dehydration interferes with how well the lungs function (thereby increasing the likelihood of an asthma attack).|
The simplest way to check for dehydration is to check urine color. It should be clear or very pale yellow. If it begins to darken in color, fluid intake should increase.
(Note: If you’ve increased water intake — but thirst, headache or other symptoms persist — check with your doctor. It might simply be that a fluid containing electrolytes is needed to restore a normal balance. It could also be that some other underlying cause requires medical attention.)
Remember: if you try to drink a large amount of water all at once, your kidneys will simply flush the excess fluid by sending you to the bathroom. It’s better to drink regular amounts of fluid throughout the day. Each morning, pour the liquid you need to drink and make sure that by the end of the day, it’s gone. That way, you won’t forget how much you’ve already had.
Mild Dehydration: (increase fluid intake — and for babies, call a medical professional): Thirst, dry lips, dry mouth, flushed skin, fatigue, irritability, headache, urine begins to darken in color, urine output decreases
Moderate Dehydration: (call a medical professional): All of the signs of mild dehydration, plus: skin doesn’t bounce back quickly when pressed, very dry mouth, sunken eyes, (in infant – sunken fontanel, the soft spot on the head), output of urine will be limited and color of urine will be dark yellow, cramps, stiff and/or painful joints, severe irritability, fatigue, severe headache
Severe Dehydration: (call emergency number): All of the signs of mild and moderate dehydration, plus: blue lips, blotchy skin, confusion, lethargy, cold hands and feet, rapid breathing, rapid and weak pulse, low blood pressure, dizziness, fainting, high fever, inability to pee or cry tears, disinterest in drinking fluid
Experts say that adults with heat exhaustion should stop the activity, move into a cool environment, remove excess clothing and drink hydrating liquids (NOT coffee, tea, sodas or juice!). They say that adults with heatstroke, however, are suffering an emergency. Their body needs to be cooled with ice packs or immersion in cold water, and immediate and professional medical attention must be called.
We say: Don’t take chances. We believe that any sign of moderate to severe dehydration should be promptly attended to and medical professionals called — especially in particularly vulnerable populations like babies, children, anyone with an illness, and seniors. If you’re in doubt, please call for help. No competent medical professional will mind being called for help with a possible case of moderate to severe dehydration, heat exhaustion or heatstroke.
Heat Cramps: brief but painful involuntary muscle spasms. They usually occur in the muscles being used during the exercise, and are a result of insufficient liquid intake
Heat Exhaustion: difficulty breathing, headache, feeling hot on head and neck, dizziness, heat cramps, chills, nausea, irritability, vomiting, extreme weakness or fatigue
Heatstroke: rapid and shallow breathing, rapid heartbeat, unusually high or low blood pressure, lack of sweating, mental confusion and disorientation, unconsciousness, physical collapse
Remember: if you try to drink a large amount of water all at once, your kidneys will simply flush the excess fluid by sending you to the bathroom. It’s better to drink regular amounts of fluid throughout the day.
Each morning, pour the liquid you need to drink and make sure that by the end of the day, it’s gone. That way, you won’t forget how much you’ve already had. Do the same for your children (because they won’t understand to keep track themselves. Remember: If they’re thirsty, they’re already dehydrated).
Make sure you are well hydrated before exercising, especially in hot or humid weather. Drink liquids to replace liquids lost during exercise, and drink more fluids following the activity.
|MayoClinic.com – questions and answers about “heat cramps,” “heat exhaustion,” and heatstroke”|
|KidsHealth – “The Dangers of Dehydration” (information for teens)|
|KidsHealth – “What’s the Big Sweat About Dehydration?” (information for younger children)|
|Medem – do a search under “Dehydration”|
|La Leche League International – “Identifying Infant Dehydration in Breastfed Babies”|
|Illinois Council on Long-Term Care – discusses the special problem of dehydration among the elderly (see “Water: The Fountain of Life” in the “Physical Well-Being” section)|
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – discusses “Extreme Heat” issues, including heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat rash. Offers suggestions for prevention.|
|U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – “Ground Water and Drinking Water”|
|Your Body’s Many Cries for Water – a book by F. Batmanghelidj, M.D. This author, who presents intriguing and (some say) controversial views on the importance of water to the body, also is the main feature of the Global Health Solutions Web site.|