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Dehydration - Symptoms & Treatment

Dehydration can be defined as "the excessive loss of water from the body." Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract can lead to dehydration in various ways. Often, dehydration becomes the major problem in an otherwise self-limited illness. Fluid loss may even be severe enough to become life-threatening.

Loss of water and essential body salts due to excessive sweating during exercise, particularly in hot, humid weather. Dehydration can occur at any age, but it is most dangerous for babies, small children, and older adults.


  • Heavy sweating.
  • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea from any cause.
  • Use of drugs that deplete fluids and electrolytes, such as diuretics ("water pills").
  • Overexposure to sun or heat.
  • Age over 60.
  • Recent illness with high fever.
  • Chronic kidney disease.

Signs and symptoms

  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive thirst
  • Decreased or absent urination
  • Sunken eyes
  • Headache
  • Wrinkled skin
  • Confusion
  • Low blood pressure
  • Coma
  • Fever
  • Lack of sweating
  • Muscle weakness


  • Your own observation of symptoms.
  • Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
  • Laboratory blood studies, including blood counts and electrolyte measurement.
  • If it's not obvious why you're dehydrated, your doctor may order additional tests to check for diabetes and for liver or kidney problems.


Drinking fluids is usually sufficient for mild dehydration. It is better to have frequent, small amounts of fluid (using a teaspoon or syringe for an infant or child) rather than trying to force large amounts of fluid at one time. Drinking too much fluid at once can bring on more vomiting.

Electrolyte solutions or freezer pops are especially effective. These are available at pharmacies. Sport drinks contain a lot of sugar and can cause or worsen diarrhea. In infants and children, avoid using water as the primary replacement fluid.

Intravenous fluids and hospitalization may be necessary for moderate to severe dehydration. The doctor will try to identify and then treat the cause of the dehydration.

Home Treatment-

  • Weight at the same time each day 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 water frequently in small quantities during exercise that causes excessive sweating.
  • 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 your doctor a weight loss of more than 3 pounds in 1 day or 5 pounds in 1 week.
  • Weigh in before and after practice sessions. Skip workouts if a weight loss of 2% or more has not been regained.

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Disclaimer: website is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. Always take the advice of professional health care for specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment. We will not be liable for any complications, or other medical accidents arising from the use of any information on this web site. Please note that medical information is constantly changing. Therefore some information may be out of date.