Dehydration happens when your body loses or uses more fluids than it takes in. When it happens, your body isn’t able to do all the things it’s supposed to. It’s especially dangerous in older people and young children.
Be Aware of Fluid Loss
The best way to avoid dehydration is to drink plenty of fluids, especially if you’re in a hot climate or you’re playing or working in the sun. Be aware of how much fluid you’re losing through sweat and when you pee. Drink enough to keep up with what you’re getting rid of.
You can also lose necessary fluids more quickly than normal when you have a high fever, diarrhea or are throwing up. As your body loses fluids, it also loses electrolytes. These are minerals in your blood and body fluids that affect how your muscles and nerves work.
When you lose electrolytes, you need to replace them. There are many over-the-counter products for doing this. Most people get these through their regular meals by eating meats, vegetables and fruits. But there are also sports drinks, gels, candies and gummies you can take. There’s even a tablet that you can dissolve in water and drink.
If you’re planning outdoor activities, try to schedule them for the cooler parts of the day. Make sure that you’re dressed in light, cool clothing when the weather is warm.
Prevention for Babies and Young Children
Children lose fluids and electrolytes just like adults do, so make sure your child has access to plenty of water and other fluids, especially if they’re very physically active or if it’s a warm day. And make sure your child eats plenty of fruits and veggies -- that contain lots of water.
If your infant or young child is dehydrated, you can try the “baby” version of a sports drink, like Pedialyte or Equalyte. If an over-the-counter solution isn’t available, give them small sips of water. Don’t try to make up your own homemade version. Be sure to check with you pediatrician if your child doesn’t get better quickly.
Prevention for Older Adults
Dehydration is especially dangerous for older adults because their bodies store less water. Some points to remember:
- Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink. Make sure you’re drinking fluids all day whether you’re thirsty or not.
- Make sure water is within easy reach day and night.
- Have between 6 and 8 cups of fluids a day. If temperatures are high or you have a fever, drink more.
- Don’t skip meals. You typically get much of your fluids from regular meals.
- Drink sports drinks, milk, and broth, but avoid high-protein drinks and alcoholic beverages. They can dehydrate you.
- Eat a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables. They contain large amounts of water, salt, and vitamins and can help prevent dehydration.
- Limit coffee, alcohol, and caffeinated drinks. They are actually diuretics, so they leach water out.
Prevention During Exercise
Anyone who exercises, no matter what age or skill level, needs to make sure they get enough fluids:
- Drink a cup of water about 4 hours before you exercise.
- Have another half-cup of water every 10 to 15 minutes while you’re exercising.
- Drink water after you’re done. If your body is producing plenty of light-colored urine, that’s a good sign.