Dehydration Signs and Symptoms

We speak a lot about the importance of staying hydrated and the benefits of proper hydration. Whether you are a world class athlete or run-of-the-mill couch potato, your body relies on the proper balance of water in your system to ensure your various parts and organs function correctly. In this blog post, we are going to take a look at what happens when that water balance gets thrown off, as we discuss the signs and symptoms of dehydration.

What Causes Dehydration

The question, “What is dehydration” is usually answered with a simple statement, such as “when you don’t drink enough water”. While this is, in some parts, true – it really doesn’t take the entire picture into consideration.

In truth, dehydration occurs when the bodies fluid or water level is less than what is required for the body to function properly. Our entire physiological system requires a certain amount of water to handle biochemical processes in our body. When that “water level” is off – even by as little as 2%, we enter a state of dehydration.

There are different levels of dehydration – from mild to severe, and even cases of chronic dehydration – a state in which someone is dehydrated frequently or all the time. The difference between the levels of dehydration is pretty slim – you can go from mild dehydration to acute dehydration with a simple 2-4% loss in hydration levels.

For individuals that suffer from chronic dehydration, this is exceptionally dangerous, as they are already in a constant state of dehydration, so it does not take much to shift them in a hazardous direction.

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration

Most of us walk around completely unaware that we are suffering from mild dehydration. The symptoms are so vague and can be attributed to other illnesses or something as simple as a lack of sleep. However, the number one rule to know if you are dehydrated is this: if you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated.

This above rule is not always the case for people who suffer chronic dehydration, as there body has become accustomed to being in a dehydrated state, and the person may no longer recognize warning signs.

The following symptoms are all typical of mild dehydration:

  • Thirst (of any level – not just severe)
  • Chills or feeling of being cold regardless of external temperature
  • Dark colored or foul smelling urine (dark yellow to brown)
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Dry mouth and lack of saliva production
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Flushed skin
  • Loss of appetite, even after long periods with no food
  • Mild headaches

The above symptoms usually occur when the body’s hydration level drops between 1-4%. Beyond that point, the body will enter into the next level of dehydration (5-9% loss of hydration levels), where the sufferer will notice these additional symptoms:

  • Increased or accelerated heart rate
  • Increased respiration
  • Higher body temperature
  • Major fatigue
  • Cramps
  • Severe headaches
  • Nausea or feeling sick
  • Constipation
  • Tingling or numbness in fingers or toes or a feel of body parts “falling asleep”
  • Lack of – or reduced – sweating, even in strenuous situations
  • Decreased urination

With these two stages of dehydration, consuming plenty of water and consuming water-rich and nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables will usually return you to normal hydration levels, though in some instances intravenous fluid – administered by a healthcare provider – can be required. If in doubt, always consult a medical professional.

Beyond this point, an individual suffering from 10% or more loss of body fluid is considered to be in a severe state of dehydration. If you – or a loved one – has reached this point, seek immediate emergency care at your local hospital. Lack of treatment can result in organ damage and even death.

Typical symptoms of severe dehydration include the following:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Blurred vision or blindness
  • Urinating with pain
  • Very little urine when urinating
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Muscle spasms
  • Vomiting and dry heaving
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Fainting
  • Chest pain

Tips to Stay Hydrated

Incorporating water and water-rich foods into your diet are key steps to staying properly hydrated. Making a habit of drinking water during each meal and when you first wake up – and go to bed at night – is a great hydration strategy as well. Always keep a fresh bottle of spring water in your car or at your desk, and if need be, set a hydration alarm on your mobile device to remind you to drink.

For more hydration tips, check out our recent blog post feature some great hydration tips and tricks!