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What is Dehydration?

Image of dry parched ground with cracks and fissures indicating dehydration.

Dehydration is a serious medical problem that happens when the body does not have enough fluids for its needs.

It could lead to serious illness and death.

There are many causes of dehydration and it could affect a person at any age though it is more likely to cause significant problems in very young children or elderly people.

Usually, the body cells are bathed in fluid - indeed 60% of the human body is water.

Loss of body water/fluid happens naturally in a number of ways - from the sweat or urine for example.

The body replaces the lost fluid using thirst signals to ensure that a healthy balance is always maintained.

The key organs in our bodies that do this are the skin and kidneys.


Abnormal Fluid Loss

Fluid loss that is abnormal means the body is losing more liquid than it should to maintain normal function.

This is what happens in dehydration.

Causes of dehydration vary, but most commonly include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Kidney disease
  • Excessive sweating after fever, exercise
  • Alcohol
  • Very hot weather.

How can you spot Dehydration?

Dehydration can gradually happen or set in very quickly depending on the cause.

Common symptoms in adults:

  • Tiredness, weakness
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Dry mouth/tongue

In young children, symptoms of dehydration could be harder to spot, but the following signs are present:

  • Passing less urine
  • Tired, less active or playful
  • Not making tears when crying
  • Appearing confused or disoriented
  • Dry mouth/tongue etc


Preventing Dehydration

Ensure you take water when exercising or in hotter environments than usual.

Treat illnesses like vomiting /diarrhoea promptly

Monitor conditions like kidney disease or Diabetes which if not properly treated could lead to serious kidney problems.

Contact Us if you need any more information.

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Dr Sylvia Kama-Kieghe

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