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Dehydration

Definition

Dehydration results from excessive loss or not enough replacement of fluids from the body.

Causes

To work properly, the body requires a certain amount of water and other elements, called electrolytes. Drinking and eating help to replace fluids and electrolytes that have been lost through the body's functions. Fluids are normally lost through sweat, urine, bowel movements, and breathing. If a lot of fluids are lost and not replaced, dehydration can occur.

Risk Factors

Dehydration is more common in children younger than 2 years and people aged 65 years or older, especially those with chronic illness.
Factors that may increase the risk of dehydration include:

Symptoms

Symptoms vary depending on the degree of dehydration. Symptoms may include:
Soft Spot in Infant Skull
Infant Soft Spot
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Dehydration can be extremely serious and life threatening. It may require immediate medical care.

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
The doctor will test bodily fluids. This can be done with:

Treatment

Therapy aims to rehydrate the body, replace lost electrolytes, and prevent complications. If there is an underlying condition, the doctor will treat that as well.
Treatment may include:

Fluid Replacement

If there is minimal or moderate dehydration, the doctor may have fluids replaced fluids by mouth. The following may be needed:
  • Drink small amounts of oral rehydration solution throughout the day. Continue to drink the oral rehydration solution.
  • Adults may need additional plain water or salty liquids like broth, depending on their sodium level. Avoid beverages with alcohol and caffeine, carbonated soft drinks, fruit juices, and gelatin.
  • Increase the amount of liquid as tolerated.
IV fluids will be given to rapidly replace fluids in cases of severe dehydration.

Medication

The doctor may recommend the following medication:
  • Anti-nausea and vomiting medications
  • Antidiarrheal medication for severe diarrhea or abdominal cramping
  • Antibiotics for severe diarrhea caused by a certain bacterial infections
If you are diagnosed with dehydration, follow your doctor's instructions.

Prevention

To prevent dehydration:

RESOURCES

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org

Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics http://www.healthychildren.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca

Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

References

Dehydration and hypovolemia in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 5, 2015. Accessed February 15, 2016.

Dehydration and hypovolemia in infants and children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 2, 2016. Accessed February 15, 2016.

Rehydration therapy in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 2, 2016. Accessed February 15, 2016.

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