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Dehydration Symptoms

Recognize and Treat Dehydration

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Updated October 22, 2011

Recognizing dehydration symptoms starts with an understanding of dehydration. Victims of dehydration do not have enough fluid (water) in their bodies to get nutrition and oxygen to the tissues of their bodies. In most cases, victims can correct dehydration by drinking water. Causes of dehydration include:

Dehydration Symptoms

It's important to recognize dehydration symptoms early. Untreated, dehydration can develop into shock. The signs and symptoms of dehydration include: Dehydration Symptoms in Children
  • dry mouth and tongue
  • no tears when crying
  • no wet diapers for 3 hours or more
  • sunken abdomen, eyes, or cheeks
  • high fever
  • listlessness or irritability
  • skin that does not flatten when pinched and released

Dehydration Symptoms in the Elderly

Dehydration symptoms in the elderly can be different than in younger adults and children. Medications that the elderly take are much more likely to lead to dehydration in that population. One particular symptom of dehydration that is more pronounced in the elderly is poor skin elasticity. When the skin is pinched, it holds its form rather than returning to its normal shape.

Treatment for Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when the body has lost too much fluid and electrolytes (the salts potassium and sodium). Dehydration is particularly dangerous for children, who can die from it within a matter of days. Although water is extremely important in preventing dehydration, it does not contain electrolytes. To maintain electrolyte levels, you could have broth or soups, which contain sodium, and fruit juices, soft fruits, or vegetables, which contain potassium. Sports drinks, like Gatorade, can help restore electrolytes. For children, doctors often recommend a special rehydration solution that contains the nutrients they need. You can buy this solution in the grocery store without a prescription. Examples include Pedialyte, Ceralyte, and Infalyte. Untreated, dehydration may lead to shock. If a victim of dehydration has a low blood pressure or very rapid pulse, the victim may need to get intravenous fluids. Call 911 for a dehydrated victim suffering from confusion, dizziness, or weakness.
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