Dehydration

What is dehydration?

Dehydration is a condition that develops when your body does not have enough fluid. You may become dehydrated if you do not drink enough water or lose too much fluid. Fluid loss may also cause loss of electrolytes (minerals), such as sodium.

What increases my risk for dehydration?

  • Vomiting, diarrhea, or fever

  • Being in the sun or heat for too long, or sweating heavily

  • Diseases, such as stroke, diabetes, or infections

  • Medicines that cause you to lose water and salt, such as diuretics (water pills)

  • Older age with decreased ability to sense thirst or to urinate

What are the signs and symptoms of dehydration?

  • Dry eyes or mouth

  • Increased thirst

  • Dark yellow urine

  • Urinating little or not at all

  • Tiredness or body weakness

  • Headache, dizziness, or confusion

  • Irregular or fast breathing, fast or pounding heartbeat, and low blood pressure

  • Sudden weight loss

How is dehydration diagnosed?

  • Blood and urine tests show your electrolyte levels and the cause of your dehydration, such as infection or diabetes. They may also show if your kidneys are working correctly.

  • A tilt table test is done to see what happens to your heartbeat and your blood pressure when you change positions. If your heartbeat increases and your blood pressure drops, you are dehydrated.

How is dehydration treated?

  • Drink liquids as directed. Ask your caregiver how much liquid to drink each day, and which liquids are best for you. You may also need to drink an oral rehydration solution (ORS). An ORS has the right amounts of sugar, salt, and minerals in water to replace body fluids.

  • You may receive fluid through an IV. Electrolytes may also be included in the fluid.

  • Hypodermoclysis gives your body a large amount of water quickly. The water is given into the deepest layer of your skin. Ask your caregiver for more information about hypodermoclysis.

When should I contact my caregiver?

  • You have trouble drinking liquids because you are vomiting.

  • Your symptoms get worse.

  • You have a fever.

  • You feel very weak or tired.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You are not able to urinate.

  • You have trouble breathing.

  • You are confused or cannot think clearly.

  • You have a fast or irregular heartbeat.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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