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Dehydration in Adults

Medical Treatment

Treatment in the emergency department focuses first on restoring blood volume and then body fluids, while determining the cause of the dehydration.

If your core body temperature is greater than 104 °F, doctors will cool the entire body. They may promote cooling by evaporation with mists and fans or cooling blankets and baths.

  • Fluid replacement
    • If there is no nausea and vomiting, fluid replacement is begun. You are asked to drink electrolyte/carbohydrate-containing fluids along with water.
    • If there are signs of significant dehydration (elevated resting heart rate, low blood pressure), fluids are generally given through an IV, a tube placed into a vein.
  • Disposition
    • If your condition improves, you may be sent home, preferably in the care of friends or family who can help monitor your condition.
    • If you remain dehydrated, confused, feverish, have persistently abnormal vital signs, or signs of infection, you may need to stay in the hospital for additional treatment.

Medications

If fever is a cause of dehydration, the use of acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol) or ibuprofen (for example, Advil) may be used. This can be given by mouth if you are not vomiting or as a rectal suppository if you cannot take anything by mouth.

Next Steps

Call or return to your doctor or the hospital as instructed.

Follow-up

  • Take prescribed medications as directed.
  • Continue to keep yourself well hydrated with plenty of water or sports drinks.
  • Watch for signs of dehydration in yourself and others.

Prevention

The foremost treatment for dehydration is prevention. Anticipate the need for increased fluid intake.

  • Plan ahead and take extra water to all outdoor events and work where increased sweating, activity, and heat stress will increase fluid losses. Encourage athletes and outdoor workers to replace fluids at a rate that equals the loss.
  • Avoid exercise and exposure during high heat index days. Listen to weather forecasts for high heat stress days, and plan events that must occur outside during times when temperatures are cooler.
  • Ensure that older people and infants and children have adequate drinking water or fluids available and assist them as necessary. Make sure that any incapacitated or impaired person is encouraged to drink and provided with adequate fluids.
  • Avoid alcohol consumption, especially when it is very warm, because alcohol increases water loss and impairs your ability to sense early signs associated with dehydration.
  • Wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothing if you must be outdoors when it is hot outside. Carry a personal fan or mister to cool yourself.
  • Break up your exposure to hot temperatures. Find air-conditioned or shady areas and allow yourself to cool between exposures. Taking someone into a cooled area for even a couple of hours each day will help prevent the cumulative effects of high heat exposure.

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