How to Tell If You Are Dehydrated

White male sitting on the sofa holding a glass of water with his palm against the side of his forehead with a look of pain on his face.

Did you know that nearly 75% of Americans are considered chronically dehydrated? Water is the most necessary nutrient for humans on the planet. It helps with various bodily functions, including digestion, circulation, nutrient distribution and body temperature regulation. Knowing whether you’re hydrated enough and how to handle dehydration properly is essential to your overall health.

Let’s dive deeper into understanding dehydration, including how to tell if you are dehydrated.

What is dehydration?

Dehydration is defined as the potentially harmful loss of water from your body. Essentially it is the term used when your body doesn’t have enough water to perform regular bodily functions efficiently. Dehydration can lead to various symptoms that could be harmful if left untreated.

What causes it?

Dehydration is caused by a lack of fluid intake or losing fluids too quickly. It is normal to lose some fluid and water from our body daily through waste excretion, sweat, tears, and saliva, but too much can result in dehydration.

Dehydration is the direct cause of losing excessive water without replenishing it due to:

  • Frequent urination
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fever

Although these instances can result in dehydration, they are often caused by outlying factors such as sickness from a sore throat, mouth pain, stomach bug, COVID-19, the flu or chronic conditions like diabetes.

Other factors not related to sickness that can cause dehydration include:

  • Forgetting to drink enough water throughout the day
  • Replacing water with sugary drinks
  • Strenuous exercise or physical activity
  • Excessive time spent in the heat or sun

Who’s at higher risk?

Although everyone can experience dehydration, there are various groups at higher risk, including:

  • Babies and younger children, especially when sick
  • Older adults
  • People who are sick
  • Those living with chronic conditions or diseases, such as type 1 or 2 diabetes
  • People who are active outdoors, especially in the heat and humidity

What are the signs of dehydration?

Dehydration has a variety of signs and symptoms to look out for. Thirst is the most common sign and often one of the first indicators that you may be dehydrated.

Those with mild dehydration often experience:

  • A dry or sticky mouth
  • Infrequent urination
  • Dark, yellow urine
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dry or cool skin

Those with more severe dehydration may experience any of the mild symptoms along with:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sunken eyes
  • Extremely dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Fainting

In some cases, blood testing or urinalysis may be performed to measure how much fluid was lost. A thorough examination of electrolyte levels may be performed focusing on sodium, potassium and overall kidney function.

How do I treat dehydration?

The only way to treat dehydration is to replenish the body with the fluids and electrolytes it has lost. Treatment may be as simple as drinking water and electrolyte-enhanced sports drinks in mild cases. In more severe instances, IV therapy may be performed.

At Coastal Urgent Care of Houma, we are here 7 days a week for the treatment of dehydration. Give us a call at 985-256-4228, or simply walk in. We want to help you feel better and more hydrated sooner. Don’t delay care.

If you are experiencing severe symptoms of dehydration or have fainted due to your symptoms, you should seek emergency care immediately by calling 9-1-1.