Summer Dangers: Dehydration
When the body loses more fluids and salts than it is taking in, the individual experiences dehydration. There are different levels of dehydration where the body begins to lose the ability to function properly. The body loses fluids when we exhale, sweat, urinate and defecate. We take water in by drinking and eating. About 75 percent of our body weight is water. While anyone can experience dehydration, seniors and infants are the most at risk.
Fever, high heat exposure, vigorous exercise, and overworking can cause the body to overheat and lose fluids at an increased rate. When someone is sick, they may lose fluids through vomiting and diarrhea. Infants and disabled persons who cannot obtain their own water may suffer dehydration if neglected. Limited access to safe drinking water and impaired ability to drink can also lead to the inadequate intake of fluids. Along with fluids, the body also needs to replace the electrolytes lost, such as sodium and potassium. Lack of these can throw the body off balance as well.
Mild & Moderate Dehydration
Mild and moderate stages can usually be helped by taking in fluids orally. Signs include:
- Increased thirst
- Felling sleepy
- Urine that is more yellow than normal
- Dry mouth
- Lack of tears
If not recognized and treated, moderate symptoms can become severe and more urgent. If present, seek medical attention immediately. Some signs include:
- Being so dizzy one cannot stand or walk
- Rapid drop in blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
- Poor skin elasticity
For mild cases, sipping small amounts of water, drinks that contain electrolytes (such as Gatorade), or replacement solutions (such as Pedialyte) are recommended. Sucking on popsicles and ice chips can help cool the body as well. To cool a person with an elevated body temperature, strip away excess clothing and move them to an air-conditioned area, increase cooling by evaporation by using a spray bottle on exposed skin or wet towel. When signs of severe dehydration are present, such as low blood pressure and fainting, physicians generally administer fluids through an IV. Some medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be used to lower fever when that is the source of dehydration.