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Dehydration


Overview :

Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it takes in. This condition can result from illness; a hot, dry climate; prolonged exposure to sun or high temperatures; not drinking enough water; and overuse of diuretics or other medications that increase urination. Dehydration can upset the delicate fluid-salt balance needed to maintain healthy cells and tissues.

Water accounts for about 60% of a man's body weight. It represents about 50% of a woman's weight. Young and middle-aged adults who drink when they're thirsty do not generally have to do anything more to maintain their body's fluid balance. Children need more water because they expend more energy, but most children who drink when they are thirsty get as much water as their systems require.

Age and dehydration

Adults over the age of 60 who drink only when they are thirsty probably get only about 90% of the fluid they need. Developing a habit of drinking only in response to the body's thirst signals raises an older person's risk of becoming dehydrated. Seniors who have relocated to areas where the weather is warmer or dryer than the climate they are accustomed to are even likelier to become dehydrated unless they make it a practice to drink even when they are not thirsty.

Dehydration in children usually results from losing large amounts of fluid and not drinking enough water to replace the loss. This condition generally occurs in children who have stomach flu characterized by vomiting and diarrhea, or who can not or will not take enough fluids to compensate for excessive losses associated with fever and sweating of acute illness. An infant can become dehydrated only hours after becoming ill. Dehydration is a major cause of infant illness and death throughout the world.

Types of dehydration

Mild dehydration is the loss of no more than 5% of the body's fluid. Loss of 5-10% is considered moderate dehydration. Severe dehydration (loss of 10-15% of body fluids) is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical care.

Complications of dehydration

When the body's fluid supply is severely depleted, hypovolemic shock is likely to occur. This condition, which is also called physical collapse, is characterized by pale, cool, clammy skin; rapid heartbeat; and shallow breathing.

Blood pressure sometimes drops so low it can not be measured, and skin at the knees and elbows may become blotchy. Anxiety, restlessness, and thirst increase. After the patient's temperature reaches 107 °F (41.7 °C) damage to the brain and other vital organs occurs quickly.




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