Dehydration

Basic Information
Description

Loss of water and essential body salts. Dehydration is most dangerous in newborns, infants and persons over 60. Water accounts for about 60% of a man’s weight and 50% of a woman’s weight and needs to be kept in fairly narrow limits to maintain cells and body tissue.

Frequent Signs and Symptoms
  • Dry mouth and tongue
  • Decreased or absent urination
  • Sunken eyes
  • Wrinkled skin
  • Dizziness; confusion;coma
  • Low blood pressure
  • Severe thirst
  • Increase in heart rate and breathing
Causes
  • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea from any cause
  • Persistent high fever
  • Heavy sweating
  • Use of drugs that deplete fluids and electrolytes, such as diuretics (“water pills”)
  • Overexposure to sun or heat
  • Low blood pressure
Risk Increases With
  • Newborns and infants
  • Adults over 60
  • Recent illness with high fever
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Chronic kidney disease
Preventive Measures
  • Obtain medical treatment for underlying causes of dehydration
  • If you are vomiting or have diarrhea, take small amounts of liquid with non-prescription electrolyte supplements or drinks such as Gatorade every 30 to 60 minutes
  • If you use diuretics, weigh daily. Report to the doctor a weight loss of more than 3 pounds in 1 day or 5 pounds in 1 week
Expected Outcomes

Curable with control of the underlying cause and replacement of necessary fluids

Possible Complications

Blood pressure drop, shock and death from prolonged, severe dehydration

Treatment
General Measures
  • Laboratory blood studies, including blood counts and electrolyte measurement (minerals that are dissolved in the blood and all other body fluids. Electrolytes play an essential role in all body functions. The major elec- trolytes are sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, phos- phorus, magnesium and carbon dioxide. Electrolytes come from food. They are regulated mostly by the kidneys and lungs)
  • Hospitalization for intravenous fluids (severe or pro- longed illness only)
  • Weigh daily on an accurate home scale and record the weight so you can be aware of fluid loss
  • If you have vomiting or diarrhea, keep a record of the number of episodes so you can estimate your fluid loss
  • For minor dehydration, take frequent small amounts of clear liquids. Large amounts may trigger vomiting
  • Drink electrolyte solutions. For adults, diluting commercial solutions such as Gatorade or Recharge with an equal amount of water may be adequate For children, use special commercial products (Pedialyte or Ricelyte). Instructions are on the labels
Medications

Intravenous fluids to replace lost water may be necessary.

Activity

Rest in bed until you recover.

Diet

Depends on the underlying disorder. Salty foods decrease the effect of dehydration.

If you or a family member has symptoms of dehydration, please Call Us and we will arrange a quick appointment.