When you were in school as a kid, you might remember hearing that our bodies are made up of mostly water. To stay hydrated, we have to make sure we take in more water than we lose during the day. We lose water when we breathe, go to the bathroom, and sweat.
Dehydration can range from mild to severely dangerous, especially for young children and older adults. Because dehydration can happen to anyone, it’s important to know the signs and causes to make sure you and your family members are healthy.
The causes of dehydration can sometimes be very simple—not drinking enough water because you are sick or busy, or because you don’t have safe drinking water available on vacation, hiking, or camping.
According to Mayo Clinic, other dehydration causes can include:
- Diarrhea, vomiting. Both of these can cause you to lose large amounts of water in a short amount of time, causing you to lose fluids and minerals your body needs to function.
- The higher your fever, the more dehydrated you may become. If you have a combination of a fever and diarrhea or vomiting, you may get even more dehydrated.
- Excessive sweating. Sweating vigorously without replenishing fluids as you go can cause you to become dehydrated—especially in the heat and humidity.
- Increased urination. Certain medications can cause you to urinate more, which can lead to dehydration.
It’s particularly important to be conscious of your water intake during hot weather and when you are sick. Keep in mind that your age can determine the signs of dehydration your body shows.
Mayo Clinic separates these signs into two categories: Infant or young child and adult.
For infants and young children, signs of dehydration include:
- Dry mouth and tongue
- No tears when crying
- No wet diapers for three hours
- Sunken eyes, cheeks
- Sunken soft spot on top of skull
- Listlessness or irritability
For adults, the signs of dehydration are slightly different, including:
- Extreme thirst
- Less frequent urination
- Dark-colored urine
Sometimes, you may have one or two of these symptoms and attribute them to something other than dehydration, Mayo Clinic advises you should go to the doctor if you or a loved one:
- Has diarrhea for 24 hours or more
- Is irritable or disoriented and much sleepier or less active than usual
- Can’t keep down fluids
- Has bloody or black stool
Keep in mind that while anyone can become dehydrated, people in particular categories are especially at risk. These categories include infants and children, older adults, people with chronic illnesses, and people who work or exercise outside.
Make sure you pay attention to your body for signs of dehydration as you take on your next summer adventure, and keep an eye out for the older and younger people around you as well!