Dehydration occurs when your body uses more water than you consume. If you do not consume enough water this can affect the functions of the body. This occurs because the balance of minerals, vitamins and other chemicals in your body is not normal. Dehydration has an effect on proper nutrition as the correct fluids are needed to allow the body to function correctly.
Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration
- Feeling thirsty or lightheaded
- Dry mouth and throat
- Dark and strong-smelling urine
- Passing small amounts of infrequent urine less than 3-4 times a day
Causes of Dehydration
Dehydration can occur when you have illnesses like vomiting, diarrhoea, sweating from a fever or exercising in hot conditions. It can affect anyone, but babies and infants are particularly at risk as they have low body weight and they are sensitive to even a little fluid loss. The other main group who are particularly affected are the elderly. This is because they may become less aware that they are becoming dehydrated and do not realise they need to keep drinking. Studies have shown even a 500ml increase in water intake reduces slips, trips and falls. It also showed a reduced rate of urinary tract infections and a reduction in laxative use. Dehydration also affects people with long-term health conditions such as diabetes or alcoholism. Also, athletes are at a higher risk as they lose large amounts of fluids through sweat.
When Someone is Dehydrated
If someone is dehydrated, they need to drink plenty of fluids. This includes water, semi-skimmed milk, diluted squash or fruit juice. Avoid drinks like coffee, tea and fizzy drinks. If they are vomiting, get them to sip small amounts regularly. Where dehydration is chronic or ongoing, it can affect kidney function and cause kidney stones. It can also lead to liver, joint and muscle damage, cholesterol problems and constipation. If left untreated, dehydration can lead to seizures, brain damage and ultimately death.
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