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Dehydration is a condition where there is not enough fluid or water in the body. Up to seventy five percent of our body weight is water and water is found in every cell of the body. The rest of the water is found in the extracellular space, such as the blood vessels and the space between the different cells. It occurs when the amount of water exiting the body is greater than the amount of water you take into the body. Water is lost from the body through breathing, sweating and urinating or having a bowel movement. You have to drink a lot of water each day to make up for the everyday losses. The body uses antidiuretic hormone to determine how much fluid the body needs.

Dehydration can be caused by many things. If you have diarrhoea, you can become dehydrated. You can become dehydrated from vomiting excessively. You can sweat off too much fluid, especially in the heat and high humidity. If you have a fever, you tend to sweat off more fluid. Diabetes causes sugar to spill into the urine and This can result in excessive urination. Burn victims cannot control the exudate from the burned areas of the body so that you lose excess fluids and can become dehydrated. If you don't take in enough fluid, you can easily become dehydrated, even if your losses are in the normal range.

The signs and symptoms of dehydration involve the body's response to a lack of fluid. The urine output can decrease and the urine can become more yellow or orange in color. You can also get a dry mouth, decrease in sweating, a lack of tears, cramps in your muscles, nausea and vomiting, light headedness when standing and heart palpitations. If there is severe dehydration, you can develop confusion, weakness and eventually a coma from a lack of water in your system.

The diagnosis of dehydration is crucial and can be accomplished by a history and physical exam alone. The skin will show "tenting" due to decreased turgor of the skin. A mental status exam may be done to see if you are alert and oriented. Vital signs can show low blood pressure or a decrease in blood pressure when lying blood pressure is compared to standing blood pressure. The heart rate is increased in dehydration. The doctor may see if you have a fever and skin may be checked for turgor. Infants may have a sunken anterior fontanelle or soft spot when they are dehydrated. Children and babies can be serially weighed to see if they are losing fluid and losing weight as a result.

Lab tests can check for electrolyte abnormalities, such as an increase in sodium and chloride. A urinalysis can show extremely concentrated urine.

Dehydration can be treated in the home or at the hospital, depending on the cause and severity of the disease. The best treatment is actually preventing dehydration by keeping yourself hydrated as much as possible. Fluid replacement is necessary by IV or oral route.

It is best treated with clear liquids, including broths, water, liquid or solid Jell-O, popsicles and things like Pedialyte and Gatorade. IV fluids are used if this doesn't seem to work or if the dehydration is severe. You can tell if the rehydration is working if the urine output is increased. If there is no urine output, you need to pay attention to the condition and consider going to the emergency room.

You can treat nausea, vomiting and fever at home in order to bring down the cause of the dehydration. If you choose to treat the condition at home, you need to be able to measure urine output by some means and you need to have all of the oral rehydration solutions ready. You need to control nausea and vomiting by making sure the diet doesn't make the condition worse. You can use loperamide or Imodium in order to block diarrhoea. Fever can be controlled with acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen. You need small doses of fluids frequently administered. Plan on between two and three litres per day, depending on your size.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

Medical Negligence Solicitors

Our personal injury solicitors operate a specialist medical negligence compensation service. Our Dehydration solicitors deal with claims using a no win no fee arrangement which means that if you don�t win then you don�t pay them their professional costs. If you would like legal advice at no cost with no further obligation just complete the contact form or email our lawyers offices or use the helpline and a Dehydration solicitor will review your medical negligence compensation claim and phone you immediately.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here