Symptoms Of Severe Dehydration: Causes And Treatment Options

Dehydration is a condition characterized by excessive loss of water or body fluids from the body. Water depletion can hamper normal functioning of various organs of the body, right from skin to kidney. Nearly 70 percent of human body is composed of water.

It does not need large percentage of water to cause dehydration, only 2 percent of water loss from body can give rise to signs and symptoms of dehydration. Severe dehydration can be life threatening especially in infants, children and old individuals; therefore it is critical to replace lost fluid as early as possible.

Dehydration can occur due to several reasons such as diarrhea, cholera, vomiting, high fever, extreme hot weather etc. Mild dehydration can be treated at home by drinking enough water and fluids. However, severe case of dehydration may require hospitalization for replacement of lost fluid.

What Are The Causes Of Severe Dehydration?

There are many diseases that can cause dehydration due to rapid loss of fluid from the body. Any person can be dehydrated. Children, infants and elderly individuals are at greater risk of getting dehydrated easily even with small amount of fluid loss. Those suffering from chronic illness such as heart failure, diabetes, have increased risk of dehydration.

  • Infectious disease such as cholera, intestinal infection leading to frequent diarrhea.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea.
  • High fever.
  • Excess loss of fluids from the body after rigorous exercise through sweating which is not replaced by drinking water.
  • Excessive perspiration in hot humid weather can dehydrate the body. Children and adults participating in sports activities and are susceptible to dehydration if they do not replenish the lost salt and fluid by drinking water and electrolytes.
  • Increased urination due to urinary tract infection, intake of excess of water pills (diuretics) and other medicines can lead to dehydration.

Signs And Symptoms Of Severe Dehydration

Severe dehydration can be life threatening. Patient needs emergency medical treatment in most cases. Here are some important symptoms of severe dehydration.

  • Severe thirst.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Body calm and cold.
  • Rapid pulse and heartbeat.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Dry tongue, skin and mouth.
  • Very less urine output.
  • Sunken eyes.
  • Wrinkled skin.
  • Fontanels in infants sink.
  • There are no tears when the child cries.
  • Skin loses its elasticity.
  • Dark yellow urine.
  • Delirium and unconsciousness.

Treatment Options For Severe Dehydration

Mild to moderate form of dehydration can be treated at home by drinking water and fluids. However, if dehydration is severe you have to consult your physician because it can lead to complications and increase fatality rate. If you are not able to get urgent medical assistance, you can try to replenish the lost fluid at home till the time you are able to get medical help.

Till the time medical assistance arrives, try to give the patient ORS (oral re-hydration solution). You can prepare the solution at home by mixing half to one teaspoon of salt and 5 to 6 teaspoon of sugar in one liter of water. Drink this mixture frequently as you can.

Besides drinking water mixed with salt and sugar, the patient can also try to consume fluids and fruit juices. Try to sip small amount of fluids and electrolyte solution frequently if you are vomiting.

Severely dehydrated patients should stay in air conditioned room, especially with high body temperature. Avoid cold sponging in patients with severe dehydration having high temperature. Instead use normal tap water for sponging.

As soon as medical help arrives severely dehydrated persons receive intravenous fluids to restore lost body fluid and increase blood volume. Simultaneously the patient is also treated for the underlying cause for dehydration. For example for patients with cholera and intestinal infection, the doctor recommends intravenous antibiotics.

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