Dehydration Signs and Symptoms

By Dr. Ritu Krishnatreye, BHMS

Dehydration signs and symptoms

Dehydration occurs when body fluid levels drop too low.

Conditions such as vomiting, diarrhea and excessive perspiration during exercise can cause a loss of fluids and electrolytes from the body.

The symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe depending upon how much water loss there is.

At times, dehydration may be difficult to detect. However, the body does give certain signs to help us recognize the shortage of water and the need to re-hydrate ourselves.

Keeping an eye open for these signs and symptoms can help prevent the negative impact of dehydration on the body.

9 Signs and Symptoms

1. Thirst

This is the most typical symptom of dehydration.

However, contrary to common perception, thirst is an unreliable and relatively late symptom of dehydration.

  • Thirst may not be felt until the body loses 1 to 2% of body weight because of dehydration.

  • Children and older people may often be less aware of thirst.

  • Lack of salt consumption could also lead to lack of identification of thirst.

2. Constipation

Chewed food enters the colon as a liquid mush. One of the jobs of the colon is to take this mush and extract water to turn it into solid waste.

If the body is dehydrated:

  • The colon tends to extract extra moisture to use where it is more urgently needed, resulting in dry, hard stool.

  • There is less secretion of digestive juices, resulting in slower digestion and constipation.

3. Urine is dark yellow

Dark yellow urine is an initial sign and symptom of dehydration.

This happens when there is lack of water in the body and the kidneys conserve water rather than expel it. The contents of what is expelled is more concentrated, which gives it the dark yellow color.

4. Fatigue

Dehydration impacts the normal functioning of the body. Blood is primarily composed of water.

A lack of water results in the heart having to work harder to pump blood throughout the body. This lowers the blood’s efficiency in distributing oxygen and nutrients, resulting in tiredness and fatigue.

5. Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is one of the early signs of dehydration; however it can be an unreliable symptom.

A person might be hydrated, but have dry mouth due to dry air, mouth breathing, anxiety or other strong emotions, or inflammation of the parotid glands.

6. Dizziness

Dehydration lessens the amount of water in blood.

This drops a person’s blood pressure, which leads to dizziness. This dizziness, this other sign of dehydration, is often felt right after standing up too quickly.

7. Overheating

Water in the body helps in regulating body temperature. When body temperature rises, our bodies release sweat.

When sweat evaporates, it lowers skin temperature and thereby body temperature. When a person is dehydrated they sweat less, which may cause the body to become overheated. In extreme cases, a person may even suffer a heat stroke.

8. Muscle Cramps

Dehydration leads to an electrolyte imbalance, especially when a person doesn't replenish electrolytes and just drinks water to satisfy their thirst.

Electrolytes are essential for muscle contraction. When magnesium, sodium and potassium levels drop in the body, it may lead to painful muscle spasms or cramps.

9. The skin loses elasticity

Another sign of dehydration is that the skin loses elasticity.

The pinch test is a quick and easy way of testing skin elasticity. If you pinch your skin and if bounces back quickly to normal, then the elasticity is still there.

However, if the skin returns to a normal state slowly, then the skin has lost some elasticity, and it may be time to start drinking electrolyte rich water.

The Role of Electrolytes in

Reversing Dehydration

Our bodies need the correct balance of body fluids and electrolytes.

The proper electrolyte balance is critical for nerve and brain function, and muscle coordination.

How electrolytes help the body

  • Direct water and nutrients to where they are needed most.

  • Help the body retain fluid

  • Regulate the amount of water in the body

  • Regulate blood chemistry and perform other important functions

  • Perform cellular functions

  • Help maintain proper muscle coordination 

Which electrolytes are needed by the body

Calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium and chlorine are the five important electrolytes that play a crucial role in maintaining healthy hydration levels in the body.

Besides these, there are trace mineral electrolytes that also play a role.

Steps to overcome dehydration

To overcome dehydration, start by drinking plenty of water and other fluids throughout the day.

Ginger ale, buttermilk and lemon juice are each helpful for restoring body fluid. An excellent electrolyte replacement product is concentrated sea minerals

They contain sodium, magnesium, potassium, chloride and the full spectrum of trace mineral electrolytes.

Conclusion, dehydration signs and symptoms

The above mentioned signs are indicative of insufficient fluid and electrolytes in the body.

As soon as you notice these dehydration signs and symptoms, it is important to take the necessary steps to re-hydrate your body.

Having the correct balance of fluids to electrolytes in the body helps the body to function properly, both physically and mentally.

(Return from Dehydration Signs and Symptoms to Chronic Dehydration Symptoms)

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