Tips for Recognizing & Preventing Dehydration
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

Tips for Recognizing & Preventing Dehydration

Our bodies need water. The average adult needs approximately 3 – 4 quarts of fluid per day.  In fact, a healthy body is over two-thirds H20! So when we don’t get enough fluid, our body doesn’t function properly. Our eyes, joints, and skin rely on water, as do many of our body’s crucial processes, like digestion.  However, it can be easy to get distracted and forget to drink, especially in hot weather or when being active. For older adults and young children in particular, a bout of dehydration can cause more serious problems. Here’s everything you need to know about hydration.

Pay attention to your thirst. Carry a beverage with you. Having a beverage nearby is one of the surest ways to increase your intake of fluids. Most of it should be water but could also be in the form of fruit, vegetables, or low or no-sugar juices.  Caffeinated beverages do not count. Caffeine is not considered an adequate source of fluid and it may increase urination. Other forms of hydration may include ice cubes and flavored ice pops.

Be especially careful if you are sick. Dehydration is often caused by other illnesses, like vomiting and diarrhea, especially in young children. In this case, aim to drink small amounts more frequently. When caring for infants and older people, you may need a rehydration solution, such as Pedialyte, which is available at pharmacies. Don’t hesitate to call your primary care provider for advice or an appointment.

Know your risk. The very young, the elderly, people with diabetes and other chronic diseases, and those who use certain medications, such as diuretics, are at increased risk of dehydration.

Know the warning signs. If you begin to feel thirsty, you may already be experiencing the first signs of dehydration. A dry mouth and tiredness are additional symptoms. Grab a glass of your favorite beverage and drink it and additional glasses slowly until you begin to feel better. Signs of moderate to severe dehydration are dizziness, confusion, increased heartbeat, increased breathing, listlessness, delirium, and fainting.  If they occur, report to the Emergency Department or call 9-1-1. Untreated severe dehydration can cause:

  • heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke
  • Kidney problems such as kidney stones or failure
  • Electrolyte imbalances that may cause heart rhythm disturbances, and seizures

The signs of dehydration in babies and young children are dry mouth or tongue, crying without tears, and no wet diapers for over 3 – 4 hours. Ensure they get some fluids right away. If their condition doesn’t improve, call their pediatrician or take them to the Emergency Department.

The bottom line is this: whenever you are feeling thirsty, if the weather is warm, if you’re being active, or if you’re feeling sick, it’s likely a good idea to have a refreshing drink or water-rich snack.

Melissa Rowe, APRN, FNP, is a nurse practitioner at SVMC’s ExpressCare in Bennington, VT.


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