Have you ever felt that your body is tired, fatigued and feeling poorly, but you’re not actually sick? This could be a sign of dehydration, which occurs when a person does not drink enough fluid or when fluid loss is greater than fluid intake. In the following blog post, we’ll look at how to recognise the symptoms of dehydration, what its health effects can be and how to avoid dehydration.
The importance of water – why do we need it?
Our body is like a finely tuned unit in which water plays a key role. In fact, the body is made up of about 2/3 water. The amount of fluid in our body depends on a number of factors, such as gender and age. While infants can have an average body water content of 75%, adults have an average of 60-70% and the elderly 55%. Vital organs are also made up of water. For example, the brain and heart are 73% water, muscles and kidneys are about 79% water, skin 64% and bones 31%. Water contributes to the functioning of the digestive system, the elimination of waste products and the formation of saliva; transports oxygen throughout the body; regulates body temperature; balances hormones and minerals; and supports bones and joints. Adequate water intake is therefore the foundation of good health.
What are the symptoms of dehydration?
Dehydration can sneak up on you unnoticed, but certain signals can help you recognise it. As mentioned earlier, dehydration occurs when your body’s fluid loss exceeds its fluid intake. Dehydration can also be influenced by climate, diet, fever and physical activity, all of which contribute to increased sweating and thus fluid loss. Signs that the body may be dehydrated include:
- Nausea and dizziness
- Throat dryness
- Muscle cramps
- Darker coloured and strong smelling urine
- Decreased amount of urine
Consequences of dehydration – how does it affect your wellbeing?
Dehydration can be further divided into three types and can have different side effects.
Mild dehydration: symptoms of mild dehydration include thirst, reduced urination and sweating. In mild dehydration, it is important to just drink water. It is particularly good to consume mineral water to restore the body’s mineral balance. Mild dehydration can affect our short-term memory and concentration, and can also reduce energy levels. Mild dehydration can also affect our emotions – studies have shown that mild dehydration can cause mood swings – albeit short-term.
Moderate dehydration: symptoms of moderate dehydration include thirst, dry/sticky mouth, reduced and dark yellow urine, headache, muscle cramps, cold and dry skin. Depending on how they feel, they should either start to take in extra water themselves or, if they feel very unwell, they should already be taken to hospital for intravenous administration. Moderate dehydration can affect the functioning of our kidneys.
Severe dehydration: symptoms of severe dehydration are either very dark yellow urine or no urination at all, dry skin, irritability or confusion, accelerated breathing and heartbeat, shock or even loss of consciousness. In this case, you should definitely call an ambulance. Severe dehydration can cause the kidneys to give up, the person may have severe seizures, brain damage or even die. In the case of dehydration, it would also be important to consult a doctor, who will be able to advise you further.
Dehydration prevention – drink sensibly and regularly
Prevention is the key word when it comes to dehydration. Preventing dehydration is easy – you just need to drink regularly. It is also advisable to eat vegetables and fruits that contain fluids and to avoid drinking alcohol/alcohol/energy and soft drinks. The amount of water you need depends on the individual, but a simple rule is to drink when you feel thirsty. Children, the elderly, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, athletes and the (chronically) ill should pay particular attention to regular water intake. The amount of water you need depends on your age, body weight, climate and activity level, and it is also important to make sure you do not drink too much. For adults, the daily fluid requirement is 28-35 ml per 1 kg, but as a fair amount of fluid comes from food, an additional 2-3 glasses should be consumed.
In summary, dehydration can have very serious consequences for our health, but it is easy to prevent by drinking water regularly. Avoiding dehydration can be prevented by drinking a good quality mineral water.