When seeing the signs of dehydration in a hot or warm and humid climate, be certain to keep heat stroke and heat exhaustion in your mind during evaluation and treatment as these may follow similar presentation and onset.
Common Causes of Dehydration
- Prolonged Fever
- Prolonged Diarrhea
- Vomiting (vomiting can also be a late sign of dehydration itself)
- Frequent or excessive Alcohol use
- Prolonged Heat-exposure (even if significant persistent sweating isn't evident)
- Excessive Diuretics (tea, coffee, and other caffeinated drinks, including "energy drinks")
Signs and Symptoms of dehydration
- Dry mouth
- Unusual Irritability or increased confusion
- Excessive Sweating early, hot but no sweating is a late sign
- Muscle cramps
- Light-headedness, dizziness
- Minimal or decreasing urine output
- Sunken eyes or dark-colored eyes (more prominent in young children)
- Unusual or increasing Tired/lethargic/sleepy
- Dark brown or dark yellow colored urine (urine should be the color of dilute lemonade)
- Poor skin turgor (skin pinched up on the back of the hand is slow to spring back to flat)
The idea of treating dehydration is fairly simple. First, attempt to prevent dehydration by always maintaining adequate fluid intake and increasing fluid intake when circumstances are favorable for getting dehydrated. As simple as this sounds, many people do not think about this until they are already started to get dehydrated or sick from lack of fluid intake. PREVENTION IS THE NUMBER ONE KEY TO THIS ILLNESS.
- Move to a cool area if heat related sweating. Stop any strenuous activity.
- Rest, lay down.
- Drink water.
- Drink electrolyte-type drinks (name brands are Gatorade, Poweraide, etc.)
- If vomiting is not an issue, eat more water-filled foods; watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes, etc.
- Stop any liquids with high sugar content like soda or sweetened tea.
- Stop any liquids with caffeine in them like energy drinks, coffee, tea, etc.
- Stop any liquids with alcohol in them.
For those with more advanced dehydration, this is a serious medical emergency. Vomiting can cause things to quickly get worse.
- Do not force large amounts of fluid on the patient as they will likely just continue to vomit.
- Try multiple small sips of water and/or electrolyte drinks every few minutes.
- Dissolve a bullion cube in warm water and sip. Cool the mixture with ice chips if the patient is suffering from heat related dehydration.
- Frozen Popsicle's, ice pops, or ice chips that can be slowly eaten may work best.
- Seek medical care as soon as any concerns with possible advanced dehydration present. Time is critical to survival.