Understanding dehydration


Dehydration simply means decrease of water or fluid in the body; it occurs when we lose more fluid or water than we take daily and our body does not have enough water to carry out its normal functions. We lose water every day in the form of sweat, urine, and stool.

Along with water, small amounts of salts are also lost. When we lose too much water, we may become dehydrated. In some cases, severe dehydration may lead to death. Diarrhea is the most common etiology of dehydration and is the leading cause of infant and child mortality nowadays. Other causes of dehydration include fever, heat exposure, too much exercise, vomiting, increased urination, excess sweating, diabetes mellitus, decreased fluid intake, severe injury or skin diseases and the use of diuretics.

The common signs and symptoms of dehydration include increased thirst, dry mouth, weakness, dizziness, palpitations, confusion, fainting, and decreased urine output. People who are more prone to dehydration include infants and children – because of their relatively small body weights and high turnover of water and electrolytes – elderly people, people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, kidney diseases and heart failure, people who exercise a lot, people living at high altitudes and people working in hot and humid weather due to increased sweating.

Sweating is a natural way to lose excess heat and toxins from our body. In summers when humidity is high, this phenomenon is not properly seen, which makes us retain toxins, and our body temperature stays high. This is a major problem associated with dehydration and can be overcome by drinking additional water, because it can lead to urination more often, helping excretion of toxins and decreasing the body’s temperature.

Dehydration can lead to serious complications, which may range from mild heat cramps to heat exhaustion and potentially life-threatening heatstroke, cerebral edema, and seizures. As electrolytes help in carrying electrical signals from cell to cell, this balance is disturbed in case of dehydration leading to severe contractions, hypovolumic shock, kidney failure, coma and even death. So it is necessary to treat dehydration immediately otherwise it may lead to serious problems.

Fever, increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure, and faster breathing are signs of potential dehydration and other illnesses. Some tests can be done to find out the cause of dehydration. Urinalysis can be done in which the color and specific gravity of urine should be checked. Other lab diagnosis includes serum protein, potassium levels, sodium levels, chloride levels, glucose levels, and BUN and creatinine levels.

About the author: Najaf Farooq is a 3rd year student of Pharmacy at the Jinnah University for Women. She is a keen researcher.

Article source AFP

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