What is dehydration?
Dehydration is a condition that happens when your body does not have enough fluid. You may become dehydrated if you do not drink enough water, lose too much fluid, or both. Fluid loss may also cause loss of electrolytes (minerals), such as sodium.
What increases my risk of dehydration?
- Vomiting, diarrhea, or fever that lasts a long time
- Being in the sun or heat for too long, or sweating heavily
- Diseases, such as stroke, diabetes, heart problems, or infections
- Medicines that cause you to lose water and salt, such as diuretics (water pills)
- Advanced age with decreased ability to sense thirst or to urinate
What are the signs and symptoms of dehydration?
- Dry eyes or mouth
- Increased thirst
- Tiredness or body weakness
- Headache, dizziness, or confusion
- Irregular or fast breathing, fast or pounding heartbeat, and low blood pressure
- Urinating little or not at all, or dark yellow urine
- Sudden weight loss
How is dehydration diagnosed?
Your caregiver will examine you and ask about other health conditions. Caregivers may also ask about medicines you take. You may need any of the following:
- Blood tests: These tests will check your electrolyte levels and are used to see if you are dehydrated.
- Urine tests: Your urine is tested to find the cause of your dehydration, such as an infection or diabetes. It may also help to see if your kidneys are working correctly.
- Tilt table test: This test checks to see what happens to your heartbeat and your blood pressure when you change positions.
How is dehydration treated?
If your dehydration was caused by medicine, you may need to stop taking the medicine. You may also need any of the following:
- Oral rehydration therapy: You may need to drink more liquids to replace body fluids. 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.
- IV therapy: You may receive fluid through an IV tube placed in your vein. Lost electrolytes may also be included in the fluid.
- Hypodermoclysis: This treatment quickly gives your body a large amount of water. The water is given into the deepest layer of your skin.
What are the risks of dehydration?
If not treated early, dehydration can become severe. If this happens, you may faint or have seizures. Your organs can stop working. This may be life-threatening. Treatment may cause swelling in your brain, which can cause headache, dizziness, or decreased alertness. Too much fluid too quickly may worsen your condition.
When should I contact my caregiver?
Contact your caregiver if:
- You have a fever.
- You are having trouble keeping liquids down.
- You have new symptoms or your symptoms are worse than before.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
When should I seek immediate care?
Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- You are losing or gaining weight without trying.
- You are unable to urinate.
- You are confused or cannot think clearly.
- You feel very weak or tired.
- You have a fast or irregular heartbeat.
- You have trouble breathing.
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.
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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.