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Dehydration Signs and Symptoms You Need to Know

May 2nd, 2009

symptoms-of-dehydration.jpgWith the hotter days of summer approaching and families spending more time outdoors, it’s important to take steps to prevent dehydration. This is particularly true for children and older people who may be particularly susceptible to the effects of losing too much water from their bodies. Without adequate water, your body can’t carry out the critical cellular processes that produce energy and keep your finely tuned body running properly. It only takes a loss of relatively small quantities of water through sweating and evaporation to trigger the symptoms of dehydration in adults, particularly older ones. People who work outdoors on hot summer days are at much higher risk of dehydration and should take extra precautions. What are the symptoms of dehydration you need to be aware of?

Keep in mind that the symptoms of dehydration in adults and children can be brought on not only by warm weather and excessive sweating, but also by vomiting, diarrhea, and fever related to an illness. It doesn’t take a lot of vomiting or diarrhea to cause significant fluid loss, especially when it’s not being consistently replaced. Any time a person is vomiting, has a high fever, or is having frequent bouts of diarrhea, they need to be watched closely for signs of dehydration and given medical attention if they develop.

As you might expect the first symptom of dehydration in adults and children is usually thirst. The body is a well oiled machine with a built-in mechanism for letting you know when it needs more water. Even though thirst is usually the first symptom of dehydration, it usually doesn’t appear until you’re around one percent dehydrated. That’s why you’ve always been told to drink water even when you’re not thirsty, especially when it’s hot outside. Thirst is a symptom that shouldn’t be ignored.

If you continue to disregard your body’s signals to drink more water, other symptoms of dehydration will develop. These usually develop when the body has lost around two to four percent of its total fluid. At this point, your mouth, eyes, and skin become dry, and you probably feel tired, weak, and may have lightheadedness or dizziness particularly when moving from a sitting to a standing position. At this point, drinking fluid becomes critical to avoid serious health consequences.

When the degree of dehydration rises to between six and nine percent, characterized as moderate dehydration, the eyes start to appear sunken and more serious symptoms develop such as an elevation in body temperature, muscle cramps, rise in heart rate, and generalized behavioral changes, such as irritability. In children, there may be an absence of tearing or urine output. With moderate dehydration, immediate medical attention is needed.

When ten percent or more of total body fluid is lost, the symptoms of dehydration in both adults and children become an emergency. Usually, the dehydrated individual is unable to drink at this point and becomes confused and disoriented. The person may be unable to walk, experience seizures, or simply pass out. If medical help isn’t given quickly, this situation could lead to death.

One useful guide to determine if symptoms of dehydration in an adult or child are present is to look at the urine. If the urine is dark in color, some degree of dehydration is already present. When dehydration reaches the level of moderate or severe, there may be a complete absence of urine output which means urgent medical attention is needed to avoid serious health problems.

Don’t take any chances with the health of you or your family. Be aware of the symptoms of dehydration in children and adults and take measures to correct them or seek medical attention if needed.


Dr. Kristie Leong is a medical doctor with a concentration in family practice. She holds undergraduate degrees in both Biology and Psychology as well a master’s in Clinical Pathology. She is one of the most prolific Constant Content authors with over 2,300 articles written and more than 1,000 sales. Unfortunately for those seeking non-duplicate content from this particular source, the majority of her health-related articles have been syndicated across a variety of other websites.


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