What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Severe Dehydration?

June 11, 2018

The human body does a relatively good job of maintaining proper hydration. Most of us drink when we are thirsty and intake a surprising amount of water from the food we eat. But under certain circumstances it’s possible to become dehydrated. Hot, humid summer weather is occasionally linked to dehydration, while high humidity makes it harder for the body to cool itself.
If you feel thirsty, have a dry mouth, feel dizzy or weak, or develop an unexplained headache, you may be experiencing signs of dehydration. Drinking plenty of water is typically sufficient to replace lost fluids. But what about severe dehydration?

What is Severe Dehydration?

Severe dehydration is a serious medical condition. The human body is comprised of nearly three-quarters water. If too much water is lost through perspiration or urination — and it is not replaced with water-rich foods or beverages — severe dehydration could result. Of course, severe dehydration is more common in hot weather due to water lost through perspiration.
Naturally, prolonged exercise, especially in higher temperatures, can result in dehydration due to excessive sweating. Other conditions that may cause dangerous dehydration include prolonged fever, vomiting, or diarrhea due to an illness. Children are particularly susceptible to dehydration due to these causes.

What Are the Symptoms of Dehydration?

1) Dark or absent urine. Urine should be plentiful and pale yellow. If urine becomes dark, like apple juice, the person may be dehydrated. A lack of urine production may indicate severe dehydration and warrants immediate attention.
2) Rapid pulse or breathing. If a person’s heart rate is much faster than normal, it may indicate a dangerous condition related to severe dehydration. Rapid shallow breathing may similarly signal distress related to dehydration. While both heart rate and breathing pace increase when a person is exercising or exerting him or her self physically, rates should return to normal at rest.
3) Dizziness, lightheadedness, or confusion. Any of these may signal potentially dangerous dehydration. In this instance, the brain may actually suffer the effects of too little water in the body. Of course, the patient should be given plenty of fluids to drink, but he or she should also be taken to see a doctor.
4) Unconsciousness. Obviously, dehydration that leads to unconsciousness is extremely severe and requires immediate emergency medical attention.

How Long Does it Take to Rehydrate Your Body?

Published research shows that athletes who started the day in a somewhat dehydrated state were able to achieve full hydration within 45 minutes of drinking about two-and-a-half cups of water (600 mL).
It should be noted that it is possible to drink too much water. Doing so could result in a condition called hyponatremia, in which the body’s supply of the key electrolyte nutrient, sodium, becomes dangerously diluted. For most people, there is no need to drink large amounts of fluid daily. Rather, simply paying attention to one’s thirst should be a reliable guide to staying properly hydrated.

When to Visit PhysicianOne Urgent Care for Dehydration

If you or a loved one is experiencing signs of dehydration, PhysicianOne Urgent Care is open 7 days/week with extended hours to help. Whether a result of the flu, the stomach bug, or over-exertion in the heat, our experienced team will assess the symptoms and recommend the best treatment options. Contact us at 1.855.349.2828, or stop in today for a convenient, walk-in visit. If you’re looking to save time, find a location near you and check in online today!

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