Water makes up two thirds of our body. It is vital we drink enough fluid to maintain a healthy balance. Many people get dehydrated by not drinking enough fluid or by losing fluids and not replacing them.
Who is at risk of dehydration?
Anyone can become dehydrated, but some groups are particularly at risk. These include:
- babies and infants – they have a low body weight and are sensitive to even small amounts of fluid loss
- older people – they may be less aware that they are becoming dehydrated and need to keep drinking fluids
- people with a long-term health condition – such as diabetes or alcoholism.
- athletes – they can lose a large amount of body fluid through sweat when exercising for long periods
Good hydration is important for all age groups and is something for everyone to consider.
What are the signs and symptoms of dehydration?
Signs of dehydration are visible in your urine. Dark and strong smelling urine is a clear sign that you need to drink more fluids.
Use the above urine colour chart to check for signs of dehydration. Healthy pee is 1-3, 4-8 must hydrate.
Other symptoms of dehydration include –
- pain when urinating (UTIs)
- dry mouth, lips or eyes
- lack of concentration
If dehydration is left untreated, it can become severe. Severe dehydration is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms of severe dehydration include -
- feeling unusually tired (lethargic) or confused
- not passing urine for eight hours
- a weak pulse
- a rapid pulse
- fits (seizures)
- a low level of conciousness
If severe dehydration is not treated immediately it can lead to complications such as secondary UTI symptoms (e.g E. coli bloodstream infections similar to sepsis) and falls due to dizziness. Severe dehydration can be life threatening, particularly for older people.
How can you stay hydrated?
You should drink plenty of fluids such as water, diluted squash and fruit juice to stay hydrated. The key is to drink regularly throughout the day (at least 6-8 mugs).
If you're active, or if the weather is particularly hot, there's a greater risk that you will become dehydrated. To stay hydrated, you should increase your fluid intake.
If you, your child or someone you are caring for is ill, particularly with a fever, vomiting or diarrhoea, there's a high risk of becoming dehydrated, so it's important to start replacing fluid as soon as possible.
If you are finding it difficult to keep water down because you're vomiting, try drinking small amounts at a time to stay hydrated.
If you work in a care setting, plan visits around meal times to get a sense of what the person is drinking. Ensure the person has access to water or fluids and advise them of the recommended daily intake.
Remember you can always use the urine colour chart to monitor your hydration levels.