You can become dehydrated for many different reasons. It could be from sweating too much. Vomiting or diarrhea can quickly remove fluids from your body, too. So can medicines than make you pee a lot.
All of these things can cause you to lose more water and electrolytes (essential minerals in your blood and body fluids) than are good for you. If you don’t have enough, your body has trouble doing the things it’s supposed to do.
There’s really only one way to treat dehydration -- replace the fluids and electrolytes your body has lost.
Is Drinking Water Enough?
For a mild case, it should be enough just to drink plenty of fluids. Water is your first choice, but there are lots of special drinks on the market that will help you replace your body’s lost water and electrolytes.
If you can’t get a pre-mixed rehydration solution, don’t try to make one yourself. Instead, replace lost fluids naturally with sips of water, fruit juice, crushed fruit mixed with water, or salty soups or broths.
Fruit juices may upset your stomach, so it’s best to dilute them with water. Avoid coffee, tea, soda, and alcoholic drinks. They’re diuretics, which means they can dehydrate you more because they all pull water from your body.
If your dehydration is serious, you may need to see a doctor to get treated with intravenous (IV) fluids. Severe dehydration may require you to go to the hospital. You should get medical attention immediately if you:
- Haven’t peed in 8 hours
- Have had a seizure
- Are disoriented or confused
- Have a weak or rapid pulse
- Feel very tired
- Feel dizzy when you stand
- Are too sick (nauseated or vomiting) to take in fluids
What to Do for a Dehydrated Child
If your baby or child becomes dehydrated (usually because of a fever, vomiting or diarrhea), treatment with an oral rehydration solution is your best bet. There are several over-the-counter options (Pedialyte and Hydralyte), which will give your child the right balance of electrolytes and salts.
Try giving small sips or by the teaspoon to begin with. You may even need to use a syringe if he’s having trouble drinking. For an older child, sports drinks diluted with water are the best treatment. Again, start with small sips and give him more as he shows he can tolerate it.
For an infant, give plenty of breast milk and formula, but don’t give fruit juices if he is vomiting or has diarrhea. They can make it worse.
Dehydration can be serious in a baby or young child. If you notice these signs, see a doctor right away:
- Extreme sleepiness
- Less responsive than usual
- Few wet diapers
- Cold and blotchy hands and feet
- No tears when crying
- Dark yellow pee
- Very dry mouth
Usually, dehydration is easy to treat at home if you get out of the heat and drink plenty of liquids. But once you’re thirsty, you’re probably already dehydrated, so it’s best to drink plenty of fluids regularly.