Dehydration: Things To Know, Precautions To Follow And More

With the arrival of summer, dehydration becomes a concern due to excessive heat causing the body to lose fluids. Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluids than it takes in. It can impair bodily functions. However, dehydration isn't solely caused by inadequate fluid intake. In this article, Connector provides insights into the causes of dehydration, prevention methods, and practical tips to avoid it.

What Is Dehydration And Its Causes 

Dehydration happens when your body expends or loses more fluid than it receives, leading to insufficient water which causes an issue for regular body functions. Adding to this Dr Asma Kamal, Consultant Family Medicine, Mediclinic, Al Qusais, says, "Dehydration can also occur if you have diarrhoea and vomiting, have a high fever, have been sweating a lot during exercise, have been in the sun for a long time and got heatstroke, and also if you are urinating frequently because of medication or a medical condition such as diabetes."

Meanwhile, Munawara Yahaya, Nabta Health Clinical Dietitian, adds, "Living in a dry climate with low humidity can increase fluid loss through sweating and respiration, while high altitudes cause more fluid loss through respiration, making hydration crucial. Additionally, frequent urination due to a Urinary Tract Infections can lead to dehydration if fluids aren't adequately replaced."

Dr Natasha Shah, Family Medicine Consultant at Mubadala Health Dubai, explains, "Sugar absorbs water, so sugary treats can reduce the amount of water available in our bodies, and caffeine's diuretic effect can further contribute to dehydration."

Dr. Mustafa Saif, Specialist in Internal Medicine at Dubai London Hospital adds, "Certain health conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, and adrenal gland disorders, can affect the body's ability to regulate fluid balance, potentially leading to dehydration. Besides this, infants, young children, and older adults are at higher risk of dehydration because they may not be able to recognise or communicate their thirst effectively. Lastly, alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production, which can lead to dehydration if not enough water is consumed alongside alcoholic beverages."

What Are The Symptoms Of Dehydration 

Dehydration symptoms can range from mild to severe. Mild symptoms can manifest as headaches, lethargy and severe thirst. "These symptoms can often be managed by increasing water intake through food and liquids," says Dr Bahaa Shaath, Consultant Nephrologist from Imperial College London Diabetes Centre.

  • Thirst: This is the body's natural signal indicating a need for fluids. However, when you feel thirsty, you're already somewhat dehydrated.
  • Reduced Urination: You may urinate less frequently, and the urine may appear dark yellow or amber.
  • Fatigue And Dizziness: Dehydration can zap your energy and make you feel lightheaded or dizzy.
  • Headache: Dehydration can contribute to headaches, as the brain relies on proper hydration to function optimally.
  • Dry Mouth And Skin: Dry mouth, lips, and skin are signs that your body lacks fluids.
  • Decreased Sweat Production: When dehydrated, your body may sweat less, even in hot weather, as it tries to conserve fluids.
  • Constipation: Dehydration can make stools more difficult to pass.

Highlighting the symptoms for babies, Dr Asma Kamal from Mediclinic, Al Qusais adds, "For a baby, there can be few or no tears when they cry, sunken eyes, less frequent wet nappies and getting drowsy or irritable."

How Does Dehydration Impact Your Overall Physical Performance

"Dehydration causes issues with reduced physical performance due to reduced circulation, electrolyte imbalances which cause problems with muscle contraction and effects on the heart rate, breathing and blood pressure. Other effects include muscle cramps and reduced power, kidney stones, urinary tract infections, constipation, and changes in concentration, alertness and mental performance," says Dr Asma Kamal from Mediclinic, Al Qusais. 

Adding more to this, Munawara Yahaya from Nabta Health says, "Dehydration impairs thermoregulation by reducing sweating efficiency, hindering the body's ability to cool down during exercise and increasing the risk of heat stress and overheating. Additionally, dehydration can make physical activity feel more challenging, even at lower intensities. This can lead to decreased motivation and endurance. Studies indicate that dehydration is linked to decreased exercise performance, endurance, and work capacity."

"Over a longer term, dehydration can cause constipation and can be associated with urinary tract infections and the formation of kidney stones," adds Marah Odeh, Registered Clinical Dietitian at DP World’s Aviv Clinics. 

Besides this, dehydration also impacts your cognitive function, here's how: 

  • Reduced Blood Flow To The Brain: Dehydration lowers blood volume, which reduces blood flow to the brain, impacting concentration, alertness, and cognitive function.
  • Headaches And Fatigue: Dehydration can cause headaches and fatigue, making it hard to concentrate, think clearly, and perform mentally demanding tasks.

Adding more to this Marah Odeh at DP World’s Aviv Clinics says, "The human body is anywhere from 45 to 75% water, so it needs proper hydration to function optimally. That’s particularly important for the brain, which is composed of 73% water. To operate, the brain cells need to maintain a balance between water and a number of other different elements and when the body loses too much water, it disrupts that delicate balance."

When To Seek Medical Help For Dehydration

In severe cases, dehydration can display alarming symptoms like extreme thirst despite drinking fluids, severe dizziness or fainting, confusion, disorientation, or unusual behaviour. In such cases, seeking medical help is necessary. 

In cases of severe dehydration, it's crucial to seek immediate medical assistance. While awaiting help, lying down and elevating legs can aid blood flow to the brain. Offer small sips of water if conscious, avoiding large amounts quickly. Look out for a rapid heart rate, sunken eyes, and absence of urination for eight hours or more, as these can signal severe dehydration and necessitate urgent medical attention, adds Munawara Yahaya from Nabta Health. 

Importance Of Staying Hydrated

Marah Odeh at DP World’s Aviv Clinics adds, "Being well-hydrated also improves sleep quality, cognition, and mood. While the ideal fluid intake varies from person to person, a five-year study of over 15,000 participants between the ages of 20 and 50 found that 43% of men and 41% of women failed to meet the daily intake recommendations, and that they drank less as they got older. This tells us that we need to put a conscious effort towards identifying dehydration symptoms and implement strategies to increase our fluid intake." 

Tips For Keeping Yourself Hydrated

Munawara Yahaya from Nabta Health suggests these tips to ensure you are hydrated throughout the day. 

  • Listen To Your Body: Thirst is a signal, but don't wait until you're parched. Aim for consistent fluid intake throughout the day.
  • Monitor Your Urine Colour: Pale yellow indicates good hydration, while dark yellow or amber suggests dehydration.
  • Adjust For Activity Level And Climate: Increase fluid intake during exercise, hot weather, or illness when sweat loss is higher.
  • Carry A Reusable Water Bottle: Having it handy serves as a reminder to drink and reduces reliance on single-use plastics.
  • Flavour It Up: Infuse water with fruits, herbs, or vegetables for a refreshing twist.
  • Eat Water-rich Foods: Fruits and vegetables like watermelon, cucumber, and celery can contribute to your fluid intake.

Sharing insights, Dr. Eman Al Marar, Family Medicine Consultant from Imperial College London Diabetes Centre added, "About 20% of your fluids come from foods you eat. Soups, juicy fruits and veggies, such as strawberries, spinach, kale, cucumbers and celery, all have high water content and are great sources of fluid. But, beware of foods high in sodium, such as packaged foods and salty snacks. While tasty, these can have the opposite effect."

Adding to this, Dr Asma Kamal from Mediclinic, Al Qusais says, "People often think drinking water is the best thing for hydration, which is true, but optimum hydration is a balance of water and salt in the body so the best thing to do is pay attention to your thirst cues and changes in colour of your urine. We have to adjust how much water and salt we consume according to our activity levels and weather conditions. Drinking too much water can sometimes lead to low salt levels in the blood which can also be dangerous."

Dr Mustafa Saif from Dubai London Hospital also suggests, "Stay hydrated by drinking electrolyte-rich beverages during physical activity or hot weather. Take regular water breaks and wear lightweight clothing to regulate body temperature. Use reminders to ensure consistent hydration throughout the day."

Misconceptions About Hydration

These are some misconceptions, Dr. Mustafa Saif from Dubai London Hospital highlights: 

- You only need to drink water when you're thirsty.
- You need to drink eight glasses of water per day.
- Caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea don't contribute to hydration.
- Drinking too much water is always safe.
- You only need to hydrate during physical activity.
- Clear urine means you're well-hydrated, while dark urine means you're dehydrated.
- Sports drinks are always necessary for hydration during exercise.

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