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Signs of Dehydration, and how to stay Hydrated

Dehydration

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When it comes to staying hydrated and avoiding dehydration, many people focus specifically on how much water you’re drinking. But in reality, that’s just part of the story. Sometimes a person can drink as much water as they like, and still not be properly hydrated – particularly if you’re losing a lot of water through sweating.

To stay hydrated, you need more than just water; your body needs various substances that are obtained from different sources. When your body is dehydrated, it feels uncomfortable; you can have symptoms ranging from mild headaches to feeling nauseous or having a dry mouth. Many of us have become oblivious to these subtle signals coming from our bodies because we are constantly surrounded by clean, plentiful drinking water at home and work.

What does dehydration feel like?

The most commonly observed sign of dehydration is feeling thirsty. That, however, is one of the last indicators – by then, you’re already fairly dehydrated. At that point you may have already experienced symptoms such as headache, cramps, irritability, and weakness.

Frequent urination is another indicator of dehydration because the kidneys are affected by dehydration and the volume of urine excreted is smaller than usual, which causes urination to be more frequent. The colour of your urine is another sign of dehydration; the darker it is, the more you need to hydrate. And the condition of your skin can also be an indicator – the less water you have in your body, the drier your skin will be.

5 signs of dehydration

5 common signs of dehydration are:

Reduced blood volume

A big portion of the water in your body is in your blood – about 60% of your body’s moisture is in the blood vessels and lymph system. Your blood volume drops when you are dehydrated, and your blood vessels shrink. This is why you feel dizzy when you are dehydrated because there is less blood is flowing through your body.

Reduced blood pressure

When your blood volume drops, your blood pressure also decreases. The heart usually controls your body’s blood pressure, but when you are suffering from dehydration, your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your body.

Sweating less

Although this might sound like a good thing, it’s actually a bad sign. Sweat is a mixture of water along with salts and minerals from your body, and toxins that your system is trying to get rid of. When you are dehydrated, your sweat volume decreases and the toxins remain in your body. Sweat also evaporates on the skin, and cools your body – so your body can’t cool itself as well with less sweat. This is why you should drink water before excercise, so that the body can absorb and make use of it.

Reduced saliva production

Saliva helps in chewing, digesting food, and cleaning teeth and gums. Dehydration also reduces the amount of saliva in your mouth, causing a dry mouth.

Mental fatigue

The less water you have in your body, the less oxygen and glucose or energy you have in or going to your brain. This can make you feel mentally fatigued and weak – meaning it can be hard to think clearly.

Ways to stay hydrated

Need to Hydrate
It’s important to stay hydrated
when exercising.
If you find yourself dehydrated, the first thing to do is to stop what you are doing and find a cool and shady spot to sit. Drinking water or sports drinks can help, but you can also make an oral rehydration solution to help you recover. A good practice to get into is to drink some water whenever you think about it.

In addition to water, eat water-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables. For sports and exercise, drink plenty of water before your start, and you can also drink electrolyte-enhanced sports drinks; these contain minerals and salts that help your body absorb water more effectively (especially during intense physical activity). Be aware of your surroundings and try to avoid getting yourself into a situation where you don’t have access to water – or make sure you bring your own. Take breaks when you’re feeling tired, overheated or start to feel dehydrated. Keep a bottle of water handy all times, and make sure you drink water before and after any type of exercise.

In the end

Water is essential for hydration, but If all you do is drink water without making sure your body has the resources it needs, you may still end up dehydrated.

Make sure your body has the salts and electrolytes it needs to process the water you drink. Sports drinks are a good short term fix, but a more long-term solution is to make sure your diet contains foods rich in sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium – such as bananas, avocados, Greek yogurt, and nuts. Milk is also good – although skim milk is better, as the fat in full cream can slow your body’s absorbtion of water. And you can also eat water-loaded foods, such as watermelon and celery.

Be aware of the environments you’re going into, and avoid situations where you don’t have access to water – which may be as simple as always taking a bottle of water with you. For sports, exercise and outdoor activities, make sure to hydrate before and after exercise. If dehydration is left untreated, it can lead to heat illnesses like heat exhaustion and heatstroke – which can potentially be life threatening without appropriate first aid.

If you want to know what to do if someone’s suffering from dehydreation or a related condtion (either you, or someone around you), the best option is to book yourself into a professional first aid course. This will train you to respond to a wide variety of medical emergencies (both major and minor). It only takes a single day, and will cost you less than an average tank of fuel, nowadays. Make sure you’re ready before the emergency arrives.

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