On a very hot summer’s day, as you sit and fan yourself on the bench on your porch, everything in front of you looks parched. And as you wipe the tiny sweat beads off your face, you feel that your lips have already become chapped. Now even your throat is dry, and nothing but the thought of a glass of cold lemonade could fill your mind. No, scratch that; even just a cup of water will do to quench your thirst. What does this feeling of fatigue and great thirst mean, anyway? Well, these are obviously symptoms of dehydration.
What is Dehydration?
Water is a vital element needed by the body for it to function properly. Water makes up about 75 percent of the body’s weight. The majority of this amount is found in the cells of the body while the rest are in the extracellular space. This calls for enough amount of water to have an adequate hydration, since we also lose water routinely. We lose water regularly during respiration, perspiration, and whenever we urinate or have bowel movements to rid of waste products. When the amount of water taken in by the body is less than the amount it loses, then dehydration occurs.
Symptoms of Dehydration
Signs of dehydration usually start with thirst. When the need for water increases, more alarming manifestations will be observed. A mild dehydration in adults occurs when the body has lost around 2 percent of its body fluid. Symptoms of mild dehydration include thirst, dry mouth, loss of appetite, dry skin, skin flushing, dark-colored urine, head rushes, chills, and fatigue.
If dehydration continues unabated, it is very probable that the total fluid loss will reach 5 percent. When this happens, there will also be signs of increased heart rate, respiration, and body temperature. When the fluid loss increases, there will be a decrease in the sweating and urination of a person. Along with these symptoms, signs of extreme fatigue, muscle cramps, nausea, headaches, and tingling of limbs will also be observed.
When the total body fluid loss reaches a high 10 percent, emergency help should be given immediately. Reaching this amount of fluid loss, let alone topping it, could be very fatal. Symptoms of this kind of severe dehydration will include muscle spasms, racing pulse, vomiting, shriveled skin, painful urination, difficulty in breathing, dimmed vision, seizures, chest and abdominal pain, and often unconsciousness. This list of symptoms only contains the most common manifestations of severe dehydration.
Other responses to a severe dehydration should be expected especially because the body is made up of a complex network of systems that behaves differently in every person’s body. A disturbance to this network, such as dehydration, will yield common symptoms in most bodies but may also lead to an unusual response on a certain individual. Age is also a factor that causes a variation in symptom manifestation. Signs and symptoms of dehydration will always be different in a child when compared with a teenager, an adult or an elderly.
Prevention of dehydration will always be the best treatment for all age groups. An average person will lose around 2 to 3 liters of water per day doing all the regular activities such as breathing, sweating, and urinating. But when a person does extra activities or exercises, the amount of water lost may increase or decrease depending on the strenuity of the activity; a heavy exercise may result to a water loss of 2 liters per hour. To prevent dehydration, one simply needs to replenish the liquids lost through the day in order to maintain balance.