Dehydration - Topic Overview
Dehydration occurs when your body loses too
much fluid. This can happen when you stop drinking water or lose large amounts
of fluid through diarrhea, vomiting, sweating, or
exercise. Not drinking enough fluids can cause muscle
cramps. You may feel faint. Usually your body can reabsorb fluid from your
blood and other body tissues. But by the time you become
severely dehydrated, you no longer have enough fluid
in your body to get blood to your organs, and you may go into
shock, which is a life-threatening condition.
Dehydration can occur in anyone of any age, but it is most dangerous for
babies, small children, and older adults.
Dehydration in babies and small children
small children have an increased chance of becoming
- A greater portion of their bodies is made of
- Children have a high
metabolic rate, so their bodies use more
- A child's kidneys do not conserve water as well as an
- A child's natural defense system that helps fight
infection (immune system) is not fully developed, which increases
the chance of getting an illness that causes vomiting and
- Children often will not drink or eat when they are not
- They depend on their caregivers to provide them with
food and fluids.
Dehydration in older adults
Older adults have an
increased chance of becoming dehydrated because they may:
- Not drink because they do not feel as thirsty
as younger people.
- Have kidneys that do not work
- Choose not to drink because of the inability to control their
- Have physical problems or a
disease which makes it:
- Hard to drink or hold a
- Painful to get up from a chair.
- Painful or
exhausting to go to the bathroom.
- Hard to talk or communicate
to someone about their symptoms.
medicines that increase urine output.
have enough money to adequately feed themselves.
Watch babies, small children, and older adults closely
for the early symptoms of dehydration anytime they have illnesses that cause
high fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. These are the early symptoms of dehydration:
- The mouth and eyes may be drier than
- The urine may be darker than usual.
- The person may feel cranky, tired or dizzy.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you
should see a doctor.