We lose water every day in the form of water vapor in the breath we exhale and in our sweat and urine. Along with the water, small amounts of salts are also lost.When we lose too much water, our bodies may become out of balance or dehydrated.
Many conditions may cause rapid and continued fluid losses and lead to dehydration:
- Fever, heat exposure, and too much exercise
- Vomiting, diarrhea and increased urination due to infection
- Diseases such as diabetes
- The inability to seek appropriate water and food (as in the case of a disabled person)
- Significant injuries to your skin (water is lost through damaged skin)
Symptoms of Dehydration
The signs and symptoms of dehydration range from minor to severe and include:
- Increased thirst
- Dry mouth or swollen tongue
- Weakness / Dizziness
- Palpitations (feeling that the heart is pounding)
- Confusion / sluggishness
- Inability to sweat
- Decreased urine output
If there has been heat exposure or if the person has an elevated temperature:
- Remove any excess clothing and loosen other clothing.
- Air-conditioned areas are best for helping return body temperatures to normal and break the heat exposure cycle.
- If air conditioning is not available, increase cooling by evaporation by placing the person near fans or in the shade, if outside. Place a wet towel around the person.
- If available, use a spray bottle or misters to spray lukewarm water on exposed skin surfaces to help with cooling by evaporation.
- Avoid exposing skin to excessive cold, such as ice packs or ice water. This can cause the blood vessels in the skin to constrict and will decrease rather than increase heat loss. Shivering will increase body temperature –the opposite effect you’re trying to achieve.
Try to get people who are dehydrated (even those who have been vomiting) to take in fluids :
- Sipping small amounts of water
- Try an electrolyte replacement drink such as Enalyte
- Sucking on popsicles made from juices
- Sucking on ice chips
- Sipping through a straw (works well for someone who has had jaw surgery or mouth sores)
Monitor your intake:
Some people simply do not drink enough fluids (NZ Nutrition Foundation and Mayo Clinic recommend 2-3 litres per day) – Fizzy drinks DO NOT hydrate you. You need other liquid sources with the best and most inexpensive alternative being plain water. There are many people who do not like the taste of water so get a little creative:
- Drink it warm
- Drop a slice of lemon or orange into a mug of hot water and top up as needed
- Add ice, slices of fruit or a sprig of mint