Dehydration is a condition that occurs when you lose more water than you take in, resulting in an imbalance of fluids and electrolytes in your body. Electrolytes are minerals that help regulate various functions such as muscle contractions, nerve impulses, and blood pressure. Dehydration can affect your physical and mental performance, as well as your overall health. To prevent dehydration, you should drink enough water and fluids to match your output and replenish your losses. How can I tell if I am dehydrated? You can tell if you are dehydrated by looking for some of the following signs and symptoms:
• Fatigue. You may feel more tired than usual if you are dehydrated, as dehydration affects your energy levels and mental state. You may also have trouble sleeping or staying alert. Dehydration can cause headaches, mood changes, confusion, and difficulty concentrating. Dehydration can also impair your memory and cognitive skills.
• Dark-colored urine and low urine output. You may notice that your urine is a darker color and you pee less often if you are dehydrated. This is because your body is trying to conserve water and make your urine more concentrated with waste products. The ideal urine color is a pale yellow, like the color of light straw. Dark yellow or amber urine can indicate mild to moderate dehydration, while brown or red urine can indicate severe dehydration or other health problems.
• Dry skin, decreased skin elasticity, and cracked lips. You may experience dry skin, dry mouth, and dry or cracking lips if you are dehydrated, as your body loses moisture and becomes less elastic. You can test your skin elasticity by pinching the skin on the back of your hand and seeing how quickly it returns to its normal shape. If it takes longer than usual, you may be dehydrated. Dry skin can also cause itching, flaking, scaling, or cracking. Dry mouth can cause bad breath, tooth decay, gum disease, or mouth sores. Dry lips can cause chapping, bleeding, or infection.
• Headache, muscle cramps, lightheadedness, dizziness, syncope, orthostatic hypotension, and palpitations. You may suffer from these symptoms if you are dehydrated, as dehydration affects your blood volume, blood pressure, heart rate, and electrolyte balance . You may feel a throbbing pain in your head, a tightening sensation in your muscles, a spinning sensation in your head, a fainting spell, a drop in blood pressure when you stand up, or a fluttering sensation in your chest. These symptoms can be dangerous and lead to falls, injuries, or loss of consciousness. Dehydration can also trigger migraines or worsen existing headaches.
• Thirst. You may feel thirsty if you are dehydrated, as this is your body’s way of signaling that you need more water. However, thirst is not always a reliable indicator of dehydration, as it can be influenced by other factors such as age, medication use, or environmental conditions. Therefore, you should not wait until you feel thirsty to drink water. Thirst can also be confused with hunger or cravings for sugary drinks.
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms of dehydration, you should drink more water or fluids with electrolytes such as oral rehydration salts or sports drinks. You should also avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can worsen dehydration. If your symptoms are severe or do not improve after drinking fluids, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Dehydration can be caused by various factors such as vomiting, diarrheas, fever, excessive sweating, burns, heat exposure, diuretics use (medications that increase urine output), or decreased water intake.
Some conditions such as gastroenteritis (stomach flu), food poisoning (foodborne illness), traveler’s diarrhea (diarrhea caused by contaminated food), diabetes insipidus (a disorder that affects water balance), or heat exhaustion (a condition caused by overheating) can also cause dehydration
Dehydration can be prevented by drinking enough water and fluids every day (at least 6 glasses for adults), especially on hot days or during or after exercise.
You should also drink fluids with electrolytes before and during exercise to prevent electrolyte imbalance.
You should avoid areas where the temperature or humidity is high and wear loose-fitting clothing to prevent overheating.
You should also avoid ice cold water as it can cause stomach cramps.
You should make yourself more comfortable by lying down with a cool wet towel on your forehead if you feel dehydrated.