Dehydration occurs when the body loses a lot of fluids.
It can occur by not drinking water, or by losing large amounts of fluid due to diarrhea , vomiting , sweating or physical activity.
If you do not drink the lost fluid, dehydration can occur.
Since approximately 75% of body weight is composed of water, mainly inside cells, blood vessels and between cells, it is necessary to have a lot of fluid in the body to survive.
Classification and types of dehydration
There are three types of dehydration:
- The isotonic dehydration occurs when the same amount of water and minerals lost. The cells require a balance between water and mineral salts.
Usually, this type of dehydration has its origin in diarrhea.
- The hypernatremic dehydration usually affects children and newborns.
The word “hypernatremic” means that the level of salt is very high in the blood. Therefore, this type of dehydration occurs when the child loses more water than salt.
For example, when the newborn has watery diarrhea or vomits excessively.
- The dehydration hypotonic occurs when the individual loses particularly electrolytes, particularly sodium.
What are the causes of dehydration?
Sometimes it is not possible to drink a lot of fluids, for example because they are too busy, because there is no access or the region does not have drinking water (when hiking or camping).
Other causes of dehydration are:
- Diarrhea – the most common cause of dehydration and associated death. The large intestine absorbs water from digested food. Diarrhea prevents this activity and causes dehydration.
- Vomiting – causes the loss of fluids and it is difficult to drink.
- Sweating – when body temperature rises, sweat is secreted, so a large amount of water is lost. Warm and humid weather, coupled with intense physical activity, can further increase sweat levels.
- Diabetes – a high level of sugar in the blood causes an increase in urination and a loss of fluids.
- Frequent urination – usually due to poor control of diabetes. However, it can also be caused by alcohol and diuretic medications, antihistamines ,blood pressuredrugsand antipsychotics.
- Burns – water passes through the affected skin and the body loses fluids.
- Inability to drink liquids – the inability to drink liquids properly is another cause that can cause dehydration, for example in the following cases:
- Lack of access to water
- Intense nausea with or without vomiting
- Lack of energy to drink
Diseases that cause continued vomiting or diarrhea can lead to dehydration, as they can lead to very large water losses in the body.
Electrolytes are fundamental substances for the activity of cells and are lost along with water.
Electrolytes are found in the blood, urine, and other body fluids.
Vomiting or diarrhea can alter these functions and cause serious complications such as stroke and coma.
In case of fever , the body loses fluids because it sweats a lot trying to reduce body temperature.
Frequently, the fever produces a lot of sweat. If we do not drink to recover fluids, it may lead to dehydration.
The elderly are more likely to suffer from dehydration due to the following reasons:
- They do not drink water, because they do not perceive thirst like young people.
- The kidneys do not work well.
- They may choose not to drink water due to their inability to control the bladder ( incontinence ).
- They take medications that increase the production of urine.
- They do not have much money to eat well.
- They suffer physical problems or a disease that causes:
- Difficulty to drink or hold a glass.
- Pain when getting up from the chair.
- Pain or tiredness when going to the bathroom.
- Difficulty communicating or talking about symptoms with other people.
Dehydration in newborns and young children
Newborns and young children are more likely to become dehydrated because:
- A greater percentage of body tissues is composed of water.
- Children have a very high metabolic rate that causes the body to consume more water.
- A child’s kidneys do not store water like an adult’s.
- A child’s immune system has not fully developed, which increases the possibility of suffering from a disease that produces vomiting and diarrhea.
- Children do not usually drink or eat when they are not well.
- The newborn depends on his mother to eat and drink.
¿ Who is at risk of dehydration?
Although dehydration can affect everyone, some people have more possibilities, such as:
- People who live at great heights.
- Athletes, especially those who practice endurance sports, such as marathon, triathlon and cycling. Dehydration can worsen sports results.
- People with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, kidney diseases, disorders of the adrenal glands, alcoholism and cystic fibrosis .
- Elderly, newborns and children.
Symptoms of dehydration
It is important to recognize the symptoms of dehydration as soon as they appear.
Without treatment, dehydration can produce shock.
The signs and symptoms of dehydration can be:
- Vertigos ,
- Headache ,
- Cloudy urine (may have a strong odor ),
- Inability to urinate,
- Loss of body weight ,
- Dry nose and mouth ,
- weakness ,
- Muscle cramps
- Cold on hands and feet ,
- Absence of sweating and tearing,
How do you know if the child is dehydrated?
The symptoms that indicate that the child is or will be dehydrated are:
- More than 6-8 hours without wetting the diaper
- Cloudy urine in the diaper and with a stronger smell than normal
- Lethargy (excessive fatigue)
- Mouth and lips dry and arid
- Absence of tears when crying
Signs that indicate the child is severely dehydrated:
- Hollow eyes
- Cold hands and feet with spots on the skin
- Excessive drowsiness
- Fontanelles sunken in the head (soft spots on the child’s head)
Complications of dehydration
Dehydration can cause serious complications, among which are:
If you do not drink enough when doing intense physical activity and you sweat a lot, you can suffer a heat stroke that can cause from mild cramps to a life-threatening disorder.
Sometimes, when drinking liquids after dehydration, the body tries to store too much water in the cells, which can lead to excessive swelling of the brain cells leading to breakage.
If the brain cells are affected, the consequences can be very serious.
Electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, help send nerve impulses from one cell to another.
In case of electrolyte imbalance, normal electrical messages can become confused and cause involuntary muscle contractions and, in some cases, loss of consciousness.
This is one of the most serious and, in some cases, dangerous complications of dehydration.
It occurs when the decrease in the normal amount of blood causes a reduction in blood pressure and the amount of oxygen in the body.
The renal failure may lead to death and occurs when the kidneys are not able to remove excess fluid and waste products from the blood.
Eat and death
If not cured quickly and properly, severe dehydration can lead to death.
Diagnosis of dehydration
Tests and analysis
The physical test must take into account the following factors:
- Decrease in blood pressure when going from lying down to standing.
- Low blood pressure .
- Poor skin turgor, which loses its normal elasticity. After pinching it, it returns to its position slowly (it is usual for the skin to quickly return to its position).
- Accelerated heart rhythm (tachycardia).
Among the tests carried out are:
- Blood tests (to control electrolytes, especially sodium, potassium and bicarbonate levels).
- High level of urea in the blood.
- Complete blood count , the level of blood cells is high.
- High creatine values.
- Specific weight of urine.
Treatment for dehydration and natural remedies
When dehydrated, sugar and salts are lost along with water.
Drinking a moisturizing solution allows restoring the balance of body fluids.
The solution should contain a mixture of potassium and sodium, in addition to glucose or starch.
At the pharmacy, you can buy moisturizers with or without a prescription, including products for children and newborns.
Si vemos que una persona se encuentra gravemente deshidratada, hay que llamar a urgencias inmediatamente.
Puede que se requiera un ingreso en el hospital para su tratamiento.
Los recién nacidos, los niños y los ancianos requieren un tratamiento urgente en caso de deshidratación.
Los líquidos pueden administrarse por la nariz, a través de una sonda o a por vía intravenosa.
De esta forma, los nutrientes esenciales se asimilan más rápidamente respecto a las soluciones para beber.
The best way to solve the problem of dehydration is to hydrate the body with many liquids, such as water, semi-skimmed milk, syrup and juice mixed with water.
A sweet drink can help replace lost sugar and a salty snack can help you recover lost salt.
Children and dehydrated newborns should not drink water alone, because the level of minerals (already low) in the body is diluted and can worsen the problem.
Children can drink syrup with water, juice or a special moisturizing solution.
In case of difficulty drinking liquids due to vomiting and diarrhea, small amounts of fluid can be taken frequently.
A spoon or syringe can be useful to give the child small amounts of fluid.