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Is Dehydration A Serious Problem & How To Manage Dehydration?

Water provides a liquid medium for most of the biochemical reactions occurring in the body. It helps in the elimination of waste products out of the body produced as a result of metabolic reactions. Not having enough water can be a problem. So, is dehydration a serious problem? What are its complications and how to manage it.
Water is very essential for sustenance of life. Water forms a major portion of the body content in humans. About 60% of water is found in the whole body of humans, blood contains 83% and brain needs 75%. It is used by all the organs, tissues and cells of the body. Water helps for maintenance of body temperature by the production of sweat. It is utilized for almost all the metabolic activities of the body.

Is Dehydration A Serious Problem &  How To Manage Dehydration?

Is Dehydration A Serious Problem & What are its Complications?

Water is indeed very important for day to day activities. Water is used up during digestion also. Some water is lost during breathing, sweating and through urine. Since water is used up for all these activities, it has to be replenished. Suppose if the lost water is not restored, the person may develop many health issues. This condition of lack of adequate water in the body is called dehydration. A commonly asked question needs to be answered, is dehydration a serious problem?

Knowing about dehydration is important to be able to protect your health. Being aware also helps to know its complications and ways to address it.

There is no such range in water consumption for anybody. According to doctors, an adult should drink sufficient amount of water to stay hydrated. It can be increased if the weather is too hot or if the person is already suffering from ailment or else if the work he/she does involves greater physical activity. The people who work out more everyday need more quantity of water than a person with normal activity. The individuals who are running out of temperature or taking medicines for any disease need more water.

Is dehydration a serious problem? Yes, it can be. Dehydration can be serious when the person suffers from vomiting and diarrhea for more than 24 hours or even in conditions where the individuals excrete blood with stools or if the stools are black in color. Immediate medical support is needed in such conditions. The complications of dehydration also include:

Dehydration can result in hypovolemic shock. Since the volume of the blood is decreased, the blood pressure is also decreased. Blood fails to supply oxygen efficiently to all the cells of the body. This is a very serious and life threatening condition.

Heat stroke may be caused because of dehydration. In case of people who exercise more, sweat more and intake less water, heat produced in the body is not exchanged with the atmosphere. Heat is not liberated to the environment. Instead it result in heat injury or heat cramps.

Insufficiency of electrolytes in the body may lead to muscle contractions involuntarily. This can happen when the sodium and potassium ions cannot bring about actions efficiently due to shortage of fluid in the body. Dehydration can cause water and electrolyte imbalance, which can be potentially fatal.1

If dehydration is not treated in time, persists for long or if it is repeated several times, it can also affect the kidney function. It can lead to formation of kidney stones or ultimately kidney failure. It can bring problems with excretion of urine and can trigger urinary tract infection.

Causes for Dehydration

Dehydration occurs as a result of insufficiency of water in the body. Here, the intake would be less and the usage of water would be more. The individual may not drink enough water or lose more quantity of water by the metabolic activities. Some of the commonest causes of dehydration include:

  • Extreme temperatures
  • Excessive exercising without replenishing with enough water
  • Diarrhea or vomiting causing water loss.

In some people who are under medication for some other disease, the risk of getting dehydrated is more. It can occur irrespective of gender and age. Anyone who does not drink sufficient water can suffer from this condition. It would be more dangerous if the children or the old age people are dehydrated. Dehydration can also be caused if the frequency of urination is increased which is expected when the individual takes diuretics.

Dehydration also has many stages like mild, moderate and severe. The conditions like mild and moderate dehydrations can be reversed easily by the intake of water and other fluids. It needs immediate support from health professionals if it is severe and also if it occurs in children and elders.

Thus, while understanding if dehydration is a serious problem or not, considering the causes of dehydration is important.

Symptoms of Dehydration

Thirst can be the first symptom of dehydration in almost everyone except old people. Many people in their old age; do not feel thirsty so easily until their body is dehydrated. Therefore, it is very essential to maintain water level in the body at all times. Intake of water can be increased depending on the weather conditions or if the person is ill.

Dehydration can be diagnosed in adults on the basis of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Urine is dark colored
  • Fatigue
  • Severe thirst
  • Confusion
  • Frequency of urination is reduced
  • Very less quantity of urine is excreted
  • Headache
  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Increased heart beat
  • Feeling sleepy
  • Dry skin
  • Fainting

The general symptoms of dehydration in children may include:

  • Soft region on the top of the skull seen a little sunken
  • Mouth and tongue become dry
  • Irritability
  • Diaper is not wet for 3 hours
  • Tears are not produced while they are crying
  • Eyes and cheeks are sunken

How to Manage Dehydration?

In order to deal with the situation, it is essential to know how to manage dehydration. In mild and moderate dehydration conditions, reversion is easier.

  • Drinking enough water
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Having clear broths
  • Consuming sports drinks
  • Water in the form of ice cubes

In the case of severe dehydration, caused due to diseases must be treated with suitable medication along with rehydration. In patients who are taking medicines such as antypyretics, antibiotics and antiemetic dehydration should be addressed properly by the care givers. In such cases, some of the treatments involve:

  • Consumption of ORS
  • Intravenous fluids

Prevention of Dehydration

Many problems arising from inadequacy of water in the body can be avoided if the proper care is taken to prevent it. Water and fluids should be consumed in sufficient quantity. Doctor’s generally advice drinking sufficient amount of water every now and then as indicated by the body can prevent dehydration and its related problems.

Depending upon the type of work that is done, whether one is doing extensive work, exercising extensively or sedentary work, the requirement of water can be varied. Even weather plays a major role in deciding the requirement of quantity of water by a person. The age also must be considered to fix the range of water needed.


Dehydration as such is not a severe health disorder but can be a serious problem if not attended to in time. It leads to many complications if not taken care properly. The ways to manage dehydration are effective and timely medical advice can help. The people who frequently suffer from dehydration are advised to keep away the caffeinated drinks, soda and tea. In case of children, patients, diabetics and also aged people, the care givers should take precautions to prevent the dehydration. At regular intervals they should be made to drink adequate amount of water.


Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 1, 2019

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