The Dangers of Dehydration


Most people who suffer from dehydration are not aware they are becoming dehydrated until the effects have reached a serious level. With dehydration, more water is moving out of your cells and out of your body than the amount of water you are consuming. It can have sudden and severe effects, but it can also be a gradual chronic problem with far reaching health consequences. This article discusses the consequences and prevention of both acute and chronic dehydration.


The percent of the human body made up of water ranges from 50-75%. The average for an adult is 50-65% whereas infants are closer to 75%. On average adult muscles normally hold around 60-70% water and the brain 75-85% water. The blood and lungs are closer to 90%. Knowing these numbers makes it easier to understand the significance of proper hydration to your health. Chronic dehydration can have a negative effect on high blood pressure, kidney damage, headaches, poor circulation and respiratory disease. Water is crucial for proper digestion, liver and kidney detoxification and waste removal.


Common ways we lose water every day are from water vapor in our breath when we exhale and water in our sweat, urine and stool. If we do not take water in with the same pace it is lost then dehydration will occur. Urine should be light or straw colored, but with dehydration it is often dark and cloudy in appearance.


Conditions That Can Cause Dehydration

  • Fever, vomiting and diarrhea – These conditions increase the need for water intake.

  • Heat exposure – Hot weather and humidity rapidly increase the amount of fluids lost.

  • Exercise – Any activity that makes you sweat requires extra water intake. It is best to drink water before, during and after exercise.

  • Diseases such as diabetes – The kidneys try to reduce excess blood glucose levels in the body.

  • Inability to seek appropriate water and food – Food can contribute about 20% of total water intake.

  • Significant injuries to skin – burns, sores or severe skin diseases/infections


Mild to Moderate Dehydration Symptoms

  • Dry or Sticky Mouth
  • Sleepiness or Tiredness – children less active than usual
  • Few or no tears when crying
  • Dry Skin
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness or Lightheadedness
  • Confusion
  • Low or no urine output: urine looks dark yellow
  • Increased Thirst
  • Swollen Tongue


Severe Dehydration Symptoms

  • Lethargy or Coma
  • Extreme fussiness or sleepiness in infants & children; irritability & confusion in adults
  • Very dry mouth, skin and mucous membranes
  • Lack of Sweating
  • Sunken Eyes
  • Shriveled and dry skin that doesn’t “bounce back” when pinched
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Rapid Heart Beat
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Fever
  • Delirium and unconsciousness (extreme cases)


Call Your Doctor If A Dehydrated Person Experiences The Following

  • Vomiting more than a day
  • Fever over 101° F/38° C
  • Diarrhea for more than 2 days
  • Unexpected / Unintended Weight Loss
  • Decreased Urine Production
  • Confusion
  • Weakness


Take A Dehydrated Person To The E.R. Immediately If These Situations Occur

  • Fever Over 103° F/ 39° C
  • Lethargy
  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Chest or Abdominal Pains
  • Fainting
  • No Urine in 12 Hours


Many people have a tendency to drink beverages that can be mildly dehydrating such as coffee, colas and other drinks containing caffeine. Alcohol consumption also increases dehydration. A sense of dehydration can often be confused with hunger. High protein diets can increase dehydration tendency. Remember to increase your water intake before, during and after exercising.


How Much Water is the Right Amount to Drink?


There is no perfect answer as it depends greatly on your general health and activity level. The old standard has been about eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. The Institute of Medicine has determined that men should drink about 13 cups (3 liters) and women about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of fluids a day.


In order to prevent dehydration and maintain the proper amounts of fluids to keep your body healthy try to make water your primary beverage. It can be helpful to drink a glass of water with each meal and one between each meal. Also, remember to drink water before, during and after exercising. During warm weather it will also be important to increase your water intake from your normal levels.


It is possible to drink too much water, although this is rare. When the kidneys can’t excrete the excess water a condition called hyponatremia can occur which is the result of the mineral / electrolyte content of the blood becoming diluted. This results in low sodium levels in the blood.


If you have noticed signs of dehydration or have concerns about the proper amount of water intake, you should consult with a health care provider.


The Doctors at Coon Rapids Chiropractic Office can answer your questions about proper hydration.


Coon Rapids Chiropractic Office

(763) 755-4300


The International Academy of Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine