Dehydration symptoms and warnings

Dehydration symptoms and warnings

Dehydration is the lack of water in the body and its effects on every bodily function. Drinking water, as often as possible, is essential. Humans are unable to last for more than 3 to 4 days without water.

Hydration is necessary for survival. The cells in our bodies contain water. They are surrounded by water too, and when we are hydrated, the cells are less permeable. This means that it will be problematic to absorb nutrients and remove waste.

Dehydration is a medical emergency. iER is South Africa’s only dedicated emergency response and disaster management network backed by its own emergency-trained call centre designed to respond to any emergency situation 24 hours a day, every day!

There are various ways to tell if you are hydrated. For example, the colour of your urine can determine if you are drinking enough water or not. The other warning signs of dehydration include bad breath, decreased amount of urine, dry mouth and swollen tongue, feeling sluggish and fatigue, and sugar cravings. Confusion, dizziness, fainting and heart palpitations are some of the more severe dehydration symptoms, and medical attention should be asked for right away if this is the case. 


The very first symptoms of dehydration you might notice include thirst, darker urine, and decreased urine production, says Medical News Today. In fact, checking the colour of your pee is an accurate indicator of a person’s hydration level and is most accessible. Clear urine is a surefire sign that you are well hydrated (Perhaps sometimes that one is drinking too much water) and darker urine means you are dehydrated.

However, it is essential to note that dehydration can occur without thirst, particularly in older adults. Some people don’t even notice that they are thirsty and can mistake the sensation for hunger. Experts say that one should navigate this by drinking water regardless of thirst. 

The site continues; moderate dehydration symptoms include the following:

  • dry mouth
  • lethargy
  • weakness in muscles
  • headache
  • dizziness

Severe dehydration is the loss of 10-15 percent of the body’s water. These may be extreme versions of the symptoms above as well as:

  • lack of sweating
  • sunken eyes
  • shrivelled and dry skin
  • low blood pressure
  • increased heart rate
  • fever
  • delirium
  • unconsciousness
  • Symptoms in children
  • in babies – a drooping, tight and sunken fontanel 
  • dry tongue and mouth
  • irritable
  • no tears when crying
  • sunken cheeks and eyes
  • no wet diaper for three or more hours


Sweating is the natural cooling process of the body. Your sweat glands are activated when you are hot, releasing moisture from your body to assist with cooling it off. 

Excessive sweating can result in dehydration because you lose a large amount of water, and fluid that is sweat is mainly water and salt. This specific term is known as hyperhidrosis.


Continuous vomiting or diarrhoea causes dehydration. Illnesses with these symptoms expel too much water from the body too quickly. 

The body uses electrolytes are minerals to control our muscles, blood chemistry and organ processes. When dehydrated, the body doesn’t have enough electrolytes in our blood, urine or other bodily fluids. 

Vomiting and diarrhoea can cause complications such as a stroke or coma. 


A fever loses the fluid in our bodies, which attempts to lower the skin’s surface temperature. As mentioned above, if your body produces too much sweat, the water it expels needs replenishing. 

If at home, drink more fluids and apply a cold compress to your face. You can even take an ice bath to cool down. If your temperature does not respond positively to these actions, go to the nearest emergency room. Don’t drive yourself, though. 


The body releases toxins from our bodies via urination. Chemical imbalances from some conditions increase the body’s urine output. If you don’t replenish the fluid after excessive urination, dehydration is inevitable. 

The colour of your urine can indicate if you are dehydrated or not. The colour of normal urine should be pale yellow. Anything darker than this could be a sign of moderate to severe dehydration. If you are not urinating at all, you are probably severely dehydrated. 

Dry skin that doesn’t bounce back after being pinched

The elasticity of our skin can also tell us if we are hydrated. By pinching the skin on the top of your hand, and if your skin moves back into place slowly, you are mild to moderately dehydrated. Slow movement after being pinched is a sign of severe dehydration. 

Fast heartbeat and rapid breathing

A rapid heartbeat and breathing during exercising are normal. If these symptoms continue after you have cooled down or if they occur without you working out, this is an indication of severe hydration. Depleted amounts of electrolytes can affect the pumping of blood into the heart.

Confusion, dizziness or lightheaded

Your brain is composed of 73% water. Drinking water and eating water-filled foods help the brain work better. When you don’t get enough fluids, you could feel as though you will pass out and be confused about your whereabouts and how you got there. These are signs of being extremely dehydrated. 

Feeling lightheaded could result in a person passing out. Besides dehydration, several factors can bring on unconsciousness, such as low blood pressure, dizziness, etc. Overall, those factors accompanied by dehydration are indicative of severe fluid loss. 

If you or other people are sent to the hospital for dehydration, you will most likely receive rehydration therapy. Doctors will monitor your stability, and only once your fluid levels have returned to normal will you be released to go home. 

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