Found yourself spending a lot of time in the summer sun this holiday season? The climate, physical exercise in the heat and your diet can contribute to dehydration. Dehydration is also caused by illnesses such as diarrhoea, vomiting and excessive perspiration from a fever.
Two-thirds of the human body is made up of water which lubricates joints, eyes, flushes out toxins and waste, helps the digestive system and maintains the elasticity and overall health of the skin.
Dehydration occurs if your body loses more water-content then what you’ve taken in. If the normal content of fluids of your body is reduced, it negatively affects the balance of minerals (such as salts and sugars) in your body and disrupts the way your body functions.
Signs that you may be suffering from dehydration are:
- Thirst and light-headedness
- Strong-smelling, dark yellow to amber urine
- Tiredness, even when you are rested
- A dry mouth
- A headache
- Passing small amounts of urine infrequently
Signs of dehydration in babies and toddlers:
- A sunken fontanelle (soft spot on their head)
- A diaper that’s been dry for 3 hours or longer
- Crying with little or no tears
- Dry mouth
There are no specific recommendations regarding the amounts of water or fluid that a child may need, however, it is important to replace lost fluid to prevent dehydration. Children lose more water when they are in hotter climates and are physically active.
Who is at risk from dehydration?
Dehydration is a risk to anyone; however, one should be more careful when it comes to:
- Infants; as they have a low body weight and are sensitive to even a small amount of fluid loss.
- The elderly; who are less aware of becoming dehydrated and of keeping fluids up.
- Persons with a health condition like diabetes.
- Athletes; who spend long amounts of time exercising for long periods, losing body fluid through sweat.
What to do when dehydrated
- Drink plenty of fluids like water, fruit juice or a rehydration solution which is available over the counter at pharmacies. Avoid tea, coffee, fizzy drinks and alcoholic beverages as they are diuretics and can dehydrate you further because they pull water from the body.
- Eat foods high in water such as fruits and vegetables.
- Suck on ice lollies (made from fruit juice and sports drinks) or ice chips.
- Take smaller sips of fluid more frequently if you’re struggling to keep it down due to vomiting.
- Infants and toddlers shouldn’t be given large amounts of water as the main replacement fluid as this may dilute their already low levels of minerals too much. Try electrolyte liquids (3 months or older) and breastmilk or formula.
Contact your GP if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Severe thirst
- Lethargy or confusion
- Not urinating for 8 hours or more
- Rapid heartbeat
- Dizziness that doesn’t pass after a few seconds of standing
Your GP will advise if a blood test is necessary or a urine test to test the balance of sodium and potassium in your body.