Dehydration: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, and Ultimate Preventive Measures


Dehydration occurs when your body leaves more fluids and water than it takes in.

The human body is built up of approximately 75% water, that’s why it cannot survive without water. The inside cells, between cells, and blood vessels, a specific percentage of water is present everywhere in a body. There is a sophisticated water management system that keeps water levels balanced, and when a body needs more fluid intake it activates the thirst mechanism.

Throughout the day your body constantly loses water as you breathe, urinate, defecate, and sweat, to refill this water your body demands fluids and a moderate quantity of water on a regular basis. Your body has the ability to move water in the areas where it is most needed in case dehydration symptoms start occurring.

In most cases, dehydration symptoms can easily be reversed through more fluid intake, but if it gets severe then immediate medical attention is the only way to get health back. As the low levels of dehydration can cause mild to severe issues, starting from constipation, headache, lethargy, etc.

Fast Facts

  • Three quarter (75%) of the human body is water
  • Drinking less amount of water than you need can cause dehydration
  • Other dehydration causes can be vomiting, diarrhea, and sweating
  • The people more at dehydration risk are those at higher altitudes, athletes, older adults, and children
  • Initial dehydration symptoms are lethargy, dry mouth, dizziness, and headache

Symptoms of Dehydration

Symptoms of Dehydration - Dehydration

When you get dehydrated, you may have a dry mouth, may feel thirsty, and have fatigue, and the symptoms tend to get more severe if dehydration stays for long. Being able to identify the dehydration symptoms is key to knowing whether you or some of your loved one needs fluids. Moreover, the symptoms can be different as per the dehydration stage, let’s keep reading to understand different symptoms of dehydration and how to overcome them.

Common Symptoms

Common Symptoms

Dehydration is not very common among adults unless they have an underlying medical condition, or don’t have access to water. However, it is more likely to affect athletes, people who exercise or work in the heat, individuals taking medications that cause more urination or sweat, and older adults.

When you get dehydrated, the symptoms reflect how severe your condition is. The most common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Thirst
  • Headache
  • Dry skin
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry lips
  • Dark color urine
  • Decreased output of urine
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Palpitations
  • Low blood pressure specifically while standing

Moderate Symptoms

Moderate  Symptoms

Signs that might be mildly or moderately dehydrated body are:

  • Dry tongue or mouth
  • Dry skin
  • Constant Headache
  • Thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Inability to focus
  • Quickened breathing
  • Lightheadedness, fainting, and constant dizziness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Decreased urine output

Commonly people do not recognize common to mild symptoms of dehydration, like muscle weakness or inability to focus, as a result, they do not increase their liquid intake. Recognizing the symptoms specifically if you are stepping towards the severity of dehydration can prevent you from danger.

Severe Symptoms

Severe Symptoms

Severe symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Dry, cracked lips
  • Lethargy
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lack of urination or urine that is amber in color
  • Reduced alertness
  • Very dry skin, when you pinch it doesn’t quickly spring back
  • Parched mouth
  • Sunken eyes
  • Loss of consciousness or confusion

One of the prominent severe signs is;

“Slow capillary refill”

When you are severely dehydrated and press the tips of your toes or fingers, the actual color takes time to return. This slow color return could be a sign of shock (the body does not have enough blood flow) and could indicate blood flow is not enough towards the extremities. You might develop complications if your internal organs are not getting sufficient blood flow, for instance, kidney failure, liver injuries, electrolyte imbalances, etc.

If you or any of your loved ones are encountering any symptoms or signs of severe dehydration, instantly seek medical help. Severely dehydrated may require intravenous fluids at a hospital to avoid serious complications. If severe dehydration is left untreated, it can lead to seizures, brain damage, or even death.

Dehydration Symptoms in Children

Dehydration Symptoms in Children

Young children and infants are always more at risk of dehydration in comparison to adults because they vomit and catch diarrhea more often. Be on the lookout for these signs, as very young children and infants cannot express their thirst including other symptoms;

  • More than three hours and no wet diaper
  • Crying but no tear production
  • Irritability
  • Sunken eyes
  • Quickened breathing
  • Unusual drowsiness or sleepiness
  • Soft spots on the head of the baby are sunken
  • High fever
  • Increased heart rate

Causes of Dehydration

Causes of Dehydration

 The most common causes are;

  • Not taking enough water
  • Losing too much water
  • A combination of both mentioned above

Sometimes, it’s hard to drink enough water or fluids due to a busy schedule, somewhere without portable water (camping, hiking, etc.), or lack the strength or facilities to drink. The other prominent causes are:


Sweating is a natural cooling mechanism of your body, which releases a certain amount of water. Vigorous physical activity or humid and hot weather can further increase the loss of fluid through sweating. Likewise, a fever can increase sweating and dehydrate the patient, especially if it’s combined with vomiting and diarrhea.


Vomiting leads to the access loss of fluids and it gets difficult to recover just through water intake. This is because vomiting causes electrolyte imbalance (not enough minerals), which is hard to cover with plain water.  


Diarrhea is the most common cause, and in severe cases even causes death. The large intestine absorbs water from food and diarrhea prevents this absorption, the body starts excreting extra water, resulting in dehydration.

Frequent Urination

Frequent urination can also be a cause of dehydration and is usually caused by alcohol, uncontrolled diabetes, and medications like antihistamines, antipsychotics, blood pressure medicines, and diuretics.


High blood sugar levels or diabetes cause fluid loss and increased urination.


Burns can damage blood vessels and cause fluid leakage into the surrounding tissues.

People More at Risk of Dehydration

People More at Risk of Dehydration

Dehydration can happen to anyone but some people are at great risk including:

Children and infants

Children are more likely to get dehydrated commonly due to vomiting and diarrhea

People at high altitudes

High altitudes supply less oxygen and fasten the breathing process, which contributes to access water loss.  

People with chronic illnesses

People struggling with chronic diseases are more likely to get dehydrated, such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, adrenal gland disorders, kidney diseases, and alcoholism


Specifically, those who are in endurance events like triathlons, cycling tournaments, marathons, etc. can get dehydrated easily.

Severe Complications of Dehydration

Severe Complications of Dehydration

If dehydrated person is left unchecked, it can step into serious complications such as:


Seizures can happen due to severe electrolyte imbalance caused by a constant dehydrated body.

Low Blood Volume

Less blood volume causes low blood pressure, and as a result, tissues cannot get enough oxygen supply, this can be a life-threatening situation.

Heat Injury

Heat injury can stay as mild cramps or lead to heat exhaustion and in some cases heat stroke.

Kidney Problems

The kidney can be at great risk in a dehydrated body causing urinary tract infections, and kidney stones, and might eventually get at a stage of kidney failure.

Diagnosis and Treatments of Dehydration

Diagnosis and Treatments of Dehydration

If dehydration is identified and treated in its early stages, it can be easily treated with just improved water and fluid intake. In contrast, if it prevails for a long time or is picked at its worst, then medical assistance is the only solution.


A doctor can evaluate how much you are dehydrated through these diagnosis steps:

  • Doctors examine both mental and physical hydration status of your body
  • Patients with symptoms of low blood pressure, disorientation, lack of sweat, inelastic skin, fever, and rapid heartbeat are usually considered dehydrated
  • Blood tests can be the next step, to examine electrolyte levels and kidney functions
  • Urine analysis is another useful way to diagnose dehydration
  • In infants and children, doctors normally check their skulls for a sunken soft spot or check specific muscle tone characteristics and loss of sweat.


The simplest ways to treat dehydrated body are:

  • Replenish the fluid levels in your body
  • Consume clear fluids including water, frozen water, ice pops, sports drinks, clear broths, etc.
  • Avoid caffeine drinks like tea, coffee, soda, etc.

Some severe dehydration cannot be treated at home and needs medical help, where the treatment can be:

  • Patients are given intravenous fluids for rehydration
  • Different patients are treated differently as per their underlying conditions
  • Anti-diarrhea, anti-fever, and anti-emetics medicines are used in case of severe diarrhea, fever, and vomiting.

Preventions from Dehydration

Preventions from Dehydration

Preventions are the most crucial treatment for every illness, similarly for dehydrated bodies:

  • Consume foods and fluids that are high in water content, for instance, vegetables, and fruits (watermelon, melon, etc.)
  • Drink plenty of water and refreshed drinks on a regular basis
  • Start your day with a glass of water
  • Be cautious about your activities in extreme weather
  • Exercise but keep fluids on your side
  • Focus on your diet, and limit alcohol consumption and caffeine.


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