Dehydration and why you should be worried?

What is dehydration?

Simply dehydration means the process of losing water. Medically, dehydration usually means a person has lost enough fluid so that the body begins to lose its ability to function normally and then begins to produce symptoms related to the fluid loss.

What causes Dehydration?

If your water loss is greater than your water intake you are likely have dehydration. In normal situation when you don’t drink enough water dehydration occurs. Other conditions where you lose excess water are

In Adults:

  1. Fever, Heat exposure and too much work or exercise.
  2. Vomiting and Diarrhea.
  3. Profuse sweating.
  4. Disease like Diabetes.
  5. Impaired ability to drink water.
  6. Injuries to skin such as in burns and any other skin disease or infection.(Due to significant loss of water from damaged skin.)
  7. No access to pure and safe drinking water.

In Children

  1. Vomiting and Diarrhea caused by viral infections.
  2. Disease causing less absorption of food and water from stomach.
  3. Increased sweating due to excess hot environment.
  4. Disease causing child to eat and drink less causing dehydration.

Who are at risk?

Children are more likely to get affected because they lose fluid faster than adults.. The water retention capacity of adults are much greater and significantly stronger because of developed kidneys and stronger water regulation system.

Older adults also need to be on the lookout because the sense of thirst gets duller with age. Pregnant or breastfeeding women also need to drink more water.

How much water should I drink in a day?

The answer to this question depends on personal habit and lifestyle.

The amount of water you require can be calculated as:

Water Output Chart ( Under Normal Conditions in a adult of 70 kg )
  • As urine : 500 ml (obligatory urine volume) + 1000 ml (facultative)
  • Perspiration (via skin) : 550 ml (increases in exercise , work, hot environment)
  • Transpiration ( via expiration) : 400 ml (increases in exercise , work, hot environment)
  • With Stool : 150 ml

Total water loss: 1600 ml( obligatory volume) -2600 ml

A average person loses about 2600 ml in volume of fluid per day

Out of 1600-2600 ml loss of water metabolic water (water formed during metabolism in your body) makes up 350 ml and Food water (water that comes with the food you eat) makes up 600 ml .

The remaining 650 ml- 1650 ml water should be taken in the form of drinks.

Under normal circumstance it is recommended that you drink 1500 ml to 2000 ml of water per day.

How do I know I am hydrated?

If your urine color shows clear to pale yellow you are good for the day, but if your urine color gets dark yellow and is concentrated you got need to drink more.


Symptoms for dehydration in Adult

The symptoms range from mild to severe

Mild to moderate symptoms:
  1. Increased thirst
  2. Dry Mouth, Tongue
  3. Decreased urine volume and more yellowish than normal.
  4. Sunken eye
  5. Dry skin
  6. Tired and sleepy
  7. Headache
  8. Dizziness
Symptoms may quickly worsen and indicate severe dehydration
  1. Severe decreased urine output or no urine output ,If any color is deep, concentrated yellow.
  2. Rapid Heart rate
  3. Drop in Blood Pressure while standing from sitting or sleeping position. ( postural hypotension )
  4. Poor skin elasticity (skin slowly sinks back top position when pinched)
  5. Dizziness, lightheadness, Lethargy, Confusion or Coma
  6. Seizure
  7. Shock
Sign and Symptoms for Dehydration in young Children.
  1. Sunken eye
  2. Decreased urination frequency and no wet diaper for more than 3 hours
  3. Dry tongue
  4. No tears when crying and more fussiness than normal.

In more severe cases:

4. Dry Mouth and tongue.
5. Sunken eye and cheeks.
6. Rapid breathing
7. Fast or weak pulse.

Measures taken in mild and moderate dehydration:

1) Oral Rehydration Solution/ fluid (ORS) :
ORS packet

In mild dehydration
Age < 2 years : 50-100 ml ORS after loose stool.
2 to 9 years : 100-200 ml after each loose stool
>= 10 years : as much as wants after each loose stool

In moderate dehydration:
Give fluid / ORS about 75ml /kg body weight per 4 hours irrespective of body weight.

2) Zinc supplementation:

In mild and moderate and severe ( IN DOSE FOR 10-14 DAYS)
Age <5 MONTHS : 10 mg
Age 6 MONTH TO 5 YEARS : 20 mg


In Mild dehydration:
1. Continue breast feeding .
2. Give normal and easily digestible diet.
3. Give extra fluid : coconut water, juices.

In Moderate dehydration:
1. Continue breast feeding .
2. Give normal and easily digestible diet.

Symptoms of dehydration may quickly worsen from mild- moderate to severe. If any severe sign appears seek medical attention.


Harper’s Biochemistry – 28th Edition