Dehydration is a condition in which a person’s water content level has fallen to a dangerously low level. Water accounts for about 60 per cent of a man’s weight and 50 per cent of a woman’s.
The concentration of mineral salts and other substances dissolved in the body’s fluids must be kept within the normal limit. Dehydration occurs when the body’s salt content, in addition to the water content, has been depleted.
What are the causes?
Dehydration is prevented by the sensation of thirst, which encourages a person to drink when the body is short of water. When water is not available or there is high loss of water from the body, thirst sensation may fail.
In temperate climate, findings revealed that a minimum of about 1.5litres of water is lost by an adult every 24 hours via the skin through perspiration, from the lungs into the air, and in urine to rid the body of waste products.
Severe dehydration may result within a few days if no water is taken. Large amount of water may be lost in vomit or diarrhoea, particularly if the diarrhoea is profuse and watery (as in cholera) or in people with diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus and some type of kidney failure. In cases like these, the thirst sensation may not encourage sufficient water intake to balance the loss.
What are the signs of dehydration?
Symptoms and signs of water depletion include
√ Severe thirst
√ Dry lips and tongue
√ Increase heart rate and breathing rate
√ The skin looks dry and loses elasticity
√ Urine is in small quantity and dark-colored
If there is also loss of salt, additional symptoms may include
√ Cramp’s and pallor.
How to prevent it
When living in hot climate or when suffering from a fever, vomiting or diarrhoea, the simplest rule is to drink enough water.
Salt losses from heavy sweating need to be replaced either in the diet or by adding a quarter of a teaspoon of table salt to each of 0.5litre of drinking water.
For vomiting and diarrhoea, oral rehydration solution (ORS) is advised. Children are easily prone to severe dehydration by diarrhoea and it is worth taking ORS.
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