When the human body uses or loses more fluid than is being consumed, dehydration will occur. The severity can vary from mildly dehydrated to sever and life-threatening. The symptoms vary depending on the level of dehydration experience, the age of the person and other pre-existing diseases and conditions.

Causes of Dehydration

There are several causes of dehydration, but they all result from either excessive loss of fluids or inadequate intake of water and fluids. It is sometimes caused by a combination of both factors. Young children and the elderly are at higher risk to become dehydrated. If you suspect dehydration in yourself or a loved one, it is important to seek your medical questions answered immediately. This list contains some of the most common causes.

  • Fever
  • Heat exposure
  • Over-exercise without re-hydration
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Diabetes
  • Excessive urination due to diseases or certain medications
  • Illness that decreases desire to eat or drink, such as nausea or sore throat.
  • Disability that interferes with ability to eat or drink: stroke, coma or ventilator-dependent patients.

Symptoms of Dehydration

The body’s initial response to a low fluid level is thirst. This mechanism kicks in to trigger water intake. Urine output drops as the body attempts to conserve water. As the level of dehydration progresses, so do the severity of the symptoms.

  • Symptoms of Mild- Moderate Dehydration
    • Dry, sticky mouth
    • Urine color is darker
    • Skin is cool and dry
    • Headaches
    • Muscle cramps
  • Symptoms of Severe Dehydration
    • No urine output, or very dark amber or yellow color to urine
    • Skin is shriveled and dry
    • Irritability
    • Confusion
    • Dizziness and lightheadedness
    • Fast heartbeat
    • Eyes appear sunken
    • Fatigue
    • Listless-children may become less active
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Delirium or hallucinations

Treatment of Dehydration

Severe dehydration can lead to death, organ failure and coma-for symptoms of severe dehydration, seek immediate medical attention and advice. Mild to moderate dehydration in healthy adults can be treated with the following steps:

  • If nauseous, take small sips of water or allow ice to melt in your mouth.
  • Replace fluids lost through excessive heat or illness with water, or electrolyte containing drinks.
  • Treat diarrhea with dietary measures.
  • Salt tablets should never be used unless prescribed by your physician.


In most instances, dehydration can be prevented by following a few simple guidelines.

  • Drink a lot of water and other fluids every day, even when you are not ill. Increase your intake during hot weather or during exercise.
  • Monitor ill family members, especially children and the elderly, for the ability to drink and the quantity they are drinking.
  • Those with fever or vomiting and diarrhea need to increase fluid intake right away.