Some pathological conditions are not actually diseases but are only their sign or part of the symptomatic picture. They can also occur as a result of exposure to external factors, a lack of drink or food, or being inherent in a certain age of a person. The list of such conditions includes dehydration.

What is dehydration (dehydration)

The human body is 2/3 water and cannot function normally if this figure is reduced. Water is present in the blood, its molecules are present in the intercellular space and in every cell of any organ or tissue. If there is an increased loss of water in the body, then this condition is called dehydration. Discomfort and pathological disorders begin to be felt and manifested already with the loss of 1% of water, and its loss in the amount of 20–25% leads to rapid death.

Causes of dehydration

The list of causes that lead to dehydration is quite large. Judge for yourself – it can be:

  • insufficient water intake;
  • starvation, unbalanced diet;
  • work or long stay in conditions with high air temperature;
  • activities that cause heavy and prolonged sweating;
  • heat and/or sunstroke;
  • change of the climatic zone, stay in the highlands;
  • food poisoning and other intestinal infections accompanied by diarrhea and vomiting, viral diarrhea, chronic watery diarrhea of ​​non-infectious origin;
  • diseases that cause increased urine production;
  • diseases that occur with high body temperature and increased sweating;
  • endocrine pathologies;
  • respiratory and heart diseases with shortness of breath (loss of moisture occurs when water vapor is exhaled);
  • extensive burns, accompanied by copious secretion of ichor;
  • being on artificial lung ventilation;
  • pregnancy, lactation, menopause;
  • childhood or old age.

Regular and uncontrolled use of diuretics, large doses of aspirin, certain antidepressants, and chemotherapy drugs can also cause dehydration. Moisture deficiency in the cells of the body is also inherent in people who are often in a state of hangover.


The first signs of dehydration are constant strong thirst, loss of appetite, fatigue, weakness, inability to concentrate, drowsiness, but at the same time increased irritability, as well as manifestations of dehydration of the skin (regardless of its type): dullness, gray tint, peeling, slight itching. Further dehydration and metabolic disorders are accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • dull headache;
  • dry mucous membranes;
  • coldness, marbling, friability and decreased skin tone;
  • cessation of tear production, sunken eyes;
  • in children – crying without tears;
  • decreased saliva production, whitish foamy saliva, swelling of the tongue, difficulty swallowing food;
  • reduction in the urge to urinate, a decrease in urine production and its intense darkening;
  • constipation;
  • increased and disturbed heart rhythm, decreased heart rate;
  • increase in capillary filling time;
  • hyperventilation of the lungs increased respiratory rate;
  • acidosis;
  • weight loss.

In severe dehydration, blue skin, a drop in blood pressure and cerebrospinal fluid pressure, convulsions, a decrease in brain volume, cerebral (subdural) hemorrhages, disorientation, confusion and loss of consciousness occur.

Dehydration levels

There are 3 degrees of dehydration – mild, moderate (moderate), and severe. This classification is used to assess the severity of the condition and prescribe adequate treatment. To determine the degree of dehydration, the doctor evaluates weight loss, skin color, temperature and tone, dry mucous membranes, eye retraction, urine output, pulse and blood pressure, and capillary filling time.

In severe dehydration, laboratory tests are necessary: ​​analysis of keratin, urea nitrogen, and electrolytes, as well as the measurement of arterial blood gases.

At-risk groups

Particularly attentive to the norm of water content in the body and the observance of the daily drinking balance should be people who are at risk – these are:

  • people with diseases caused by hormonal disruptions or metabolic disorders;
  • professional athletes who engage in daily many hours of grueling workouts;
  • working in difficult conditions of hot shops or under the scorching rays of the sun;
  • women in perimenopause;
  • pensioners.

Pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and children are also at risk of dehydration.

Dehydration in children

Dehydration in children under 5 years of age is a common problem worldwide. 48% of cases occur due to the fact that this age group is characterized by frequent episodes of gastroenteritis and infections, which are accompanied by fever, diarrhea, vomiting, as well as frequent colds, bronchitis, sinusitis, and pneumonia. The remaining 52% of dehydration in children is due to:

  • frequent and abundant stools characteristic of younger children;
  • a higher percentage of water in the body than in adults;
  • a higher loss of moisture through the skin and mucous membranes, since, for example, the body area relative to body weight in an infant is 2–4 times greater than in an adult;
  • higher metabolic rate and water requirement per 1 kg of body weight than in adults;
  • immaturity of dehydration compensation mechanisms, for example, increased urine concentration;
  • lack of independence and dependence on adults to satisfy their needs for water and quench their thirst.

Newborns and infants are most at risk of dehydration.

Dehydration in the elderly

Older people should be more attentive to the daily use of pure water since with age it is much easier to get dehydrated than in young and mature years. This is explained:

  • physiological decrease in the percentage of water in the body;
  • decreased physical activity and weight gain;
  • hormonal changes due to the cessation of reproductive function;
  • senile decrease in the feeling of thirst and subsequent disturbance of water and electrolyte balance;
  • taking diuretic drugs for arterial hypertension;
  • non-infectious chronic diarrhea;
  • senile urinary incontinence.

In addition to the reasons listed above, the factors that alleviate dehydration in old age include the abuse of coffee, alcohol, drinks with phosphoric or citric acid, pickles, and conservation.

First Aid for Dehydration: Tips and Tricks

Here is an algorithm for providing first aid at home for suspected dehydration:

  1. Lay the person reclining in a cool dark room. Ensure fresh air supply.
  2. Call an ambulance.
  3. Prepare branded oral rehydration serum or quickly make a glucose-electrolyte composition: 800 ml of water + 4 tbsp. sugar + 1 tsp salt + 1 tsp baking soda + 200 ml orange juice. An isotonic cocktail should be drunk slowly and preferably through a cocktail tube.
  4. It is shown to wrap the head with a wet towel, and open areas of the body with a damp sheet.

Such care can be provided to children, adults, and the elderly if dehydration occurs due to vomiting and diarrhea or heat and/or sunstroke.

What to do with dehydration in extreme conditions

Alas, the only way to prevent or slow down dehydration in extreme conditions is to find and drink water. If it is the sea, then you can drink it in only 1 small sip approximately 1 time per hour. If there is water, but it is cloudy, then it must be cleaned and disinfected as much as possible by any available means: settling, filtering, boiling, including with antiseptic plants. Collecting rainwater or morning dew, as well as melting snow or ice, will help you stay hydrated.

Treatment for dehydration

Treating dehydration at home is possible, but only if it is mild. How much and what to drink when dehydrated? This must be decided by the doctor. When prescribing, it will take into account the cause of dehydration, the type of dehydration (iso-, hypo-, or hypertonic), ongoing fluid and electrolyte losses, the individual’s age, and comorbidities.

With moderate and severe dehydration, treatment is carried out in a hospital setting using a nasogastric tube and/or intravenous infusions of isotonic solutions. Treatment tactics and the choice of rehydration strategy depend on the severity of the condition, the cause of dehydration, and the age of the patient.


The best way to prevent dehydration is to monitor your intake of fluids and clean water every day, and calculate how much you need based on your age, body weight, lifestyle, and other factors that contribute to water loss. For children, as the main prophylactic rehydrate drink, we recommend using pure water, accompanied by fruits or foods containing carbohydrates and minerals. During training, prolonged or heavy physical exertion, as well as in old age, sports isotonic drinks and gels will help to avoid dehydration.