Quench Your Thirst : Causes and Prevention of Dehydration

  • Dehydration occurs when a loss of fluid in the body is not adequately replaced.
  • It’s important to be aware of the warning signs of dehydration such as dry lips, increased thirst, and fatigue.
  • Dehydration is preventable and easily managed by drinking water on a daily basis.

With summer in full swing, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to the causes and prevention of dehydration. You may have heard numerous messages in the media about the importance of staying hydrated, and for good reason. Dehydration can happen quickly, but it’s easily preventable and treatable. By knowing the signs of dehydration and understanding the benefits of drinking water, you can take steps to keep your body hydrated and healthy.

What are the Causes And Prevention of Dehydration?

WWater is essential for good health, and healthy adults can lose over 2,500 ml of water daily. Dehydration occurs when we lose too much fluid and don’t replace it. Our bodies are 50-70% water, but we need to keep our fluid levels within a narrow range. Dehydration can have many causes, such as forgetting to drink enough or exercising without proper hydration. It’s important to be aware of the risks and take steps to prevent dehydration. 

We may become dehydrated when we’re sick. This is especially possible if we have fever, diarrhea or vomiting. Fever causes excess sweating. Therefore, it can lead to dehydration. Diarrhea can occur suddenly and quickly. It causes a loss of fluid and electrolytes. Vomiting with diarrhea can lead to even more fluid and mineral loss. This is particularly common in infants and young children. All these may lead to losing a lot of water and electrolytes in the body.

Electrolytes are minerals that dissolve in body fluids and create charged ions. The most important electrolytes are sodium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphate. Sodium regulates fluid levels, potassium helps muscles and nerves function, magnesium regulates blood sugar and blood pressure, and phosphate regulates metabolism and helps form our skeletal system.

Older adults have a lower volume of water in their bodies and may take medications that increase the risk of dehydration. Dehydration is a common cause of illness and death in older adults, and people with chronic illnesses such as kidney disease and diabetes are more prone to it. Studies suggest that children and elderly adults may have cognitive difficulties when not properly hydrated.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration?

Recognizing dehydration can be difficult because you may not feel thirsty. It’s important to stay hydrated, especially in hot weather or when exercising vigorously, as excessive sweating can increase the risk of dehydration. Children and adults may show different signs of dehydration, so it’s important to be aware of the warning signs. Let’s take a closer look.

Infants and Young Children – Understanding the causes and prevention of dehydration is crucial for maintaining good health. Mild dehydration can cause dry mouth, increased thirst, and less urination. Children may be less playful, and in severe cases, they may become sleepy and listless, requiring emergency care. It’s important to recognize the signs of dehydration and take steps to prevent it.

Adults – Dehydration can cause symptoms such as dry mouth, thirst, headaches, lethargy, and dizziness. Dark-colored urine and loss of focus may also be signs. Losing even one liter of water can affect bodily functions, causing weakness, thirst, and flushing. Losing five liters can lead to fatigue and dizziness, while losing more than 15 liters is extremely dangerous and can cause muscle spasms, confusion, and even death. It’s important to recognize the signs of dehydration and take steps to prevent it.

How Can Dehydration be Prevented?

The amount of water your body needs varies depending on factors such as exercise, health, climate, and whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. You may not need to drink eight glasses of water a day, as commonly recommended. If you’re planning strenuous exercise, it’s important to hydrate beforehand and replace water loss during and between routines. Athletes and women may be more prone to dehydration. It’s essential to understand your individual causes and prevention of dehydration.

What are the Best Options for Staying Hydrated?

We should incorporate hydration into our agenda. This especially applies when we’re planning our daily activities. Our health status depends upon what we consume. It is also related to our age and level of physical activity. So, how can we maintain adequate hydration? 

Water is an ideal choice because it’s most readily available. However, there are other ways to get enough fluids. Keeping a variety of foods and beverages at home makes this goal much easier. Milk, juice, and herbal teas are also effective for preventing dehydration. Beverages like these contain a lot of water. Milk has ample amounts of sodium, carbohydrate, and protein content. It is another viable source for rapid rehydration. Herbal teas are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. There are many different types to suit your taste buds!

Similar to the benefits of fruit juice, you can also squeeze a slice of lemon or lime into your water for added flavor and nutrients. Both lemons and limes contain high levels of vitamin C, which help support the immune system. Citric acid may also aid in the prevention of kidney stones. There are many fruits and vegetables that are almost 100% water, such as watermelon and spinach. Coffee and other caffeinated beverages may cause more frequent urination, but they don’t appear to contribute directly to dehydration. 

How Can You Quickly Manage Dehydration?

If you have mild or signs and symptoms of dehydration, try to remedy this situation as quickly as possible at home. The most effective way to treat dehydration is to replace the lost fluids and electrolytes. Sweat is mainly sodium. Therefore, this is one of the most important electrolytes to replace, especially when exercising. Grab some cool water or a sports drink with electrolytes, You may also opt to drink a carbohydrate solution. Water is generally considered to be the best way to rehydrate. However, it may be more effective when consumed with foods that contain electrolytes. 

To rehydrate properly, you need to consume more fluid than you lost, and the fluid should have a higher sodium concentration than sweat. Hyponatremia occurs when blood sodium levels fall below 135 mEq/L, making it difficult to regulate body fluids and causing cells to swell. 

In severe cases, this can be life-threatening. Moderate dehydration may require intravenous fluids to replace water, sugar, and salt, but this requires medical attention. It’s important to consult with your doctor if you experience dehydration.

In the event of severe dehydration, seek immediate emergency care. This is because it can lead to serious health complications. Among these are heat cramps, heat stroke, and seizures. It can also lead to urinary and kidney issues. In worse cases, there may be low blood volume shock. This occurs when there is a sudden loss of a lot of blood or fluids from your body. It is a life-threatening emergency. Therefore, it must be treated as quickly as possible.

Preventing dehydration should be a top priority. To stay hydrated, drink plenty of fluids and be aware of the signs of dehydration, especially in children and the elderly who are at higher risk. Carry a water bottle when on-the-go and set reminders to drink throughout the day. Monitor your hydration by assessing.


As we emerge from the pandemic and begin to enjoy more outdoor activities and events, it’s important to remember to stay hydrated. Don’t let the summer heat catch you off guard – make sure you understand the causes and prevention of dehydration so you can take simple steps to keep your body healthy. 

Water is essential for all our body functions and helps keep our electrolytes in balance. By being aware of the causes, symptoms, and ways to prevent dehydration, you can enjoy the summer months while staying happy, healthy, and hydrated.

Scientific Information

  • Electrolytes – minerals that dissolve in body fluids and create electrically charged ions. The most important electrolytes for our bodies are sodium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphate.

  • Sodium concentrationthe amount of sodium (salt) relative to the volume of water in the blood, but does not indicate the total body sodium content. When the concentration of sodium in your blood is low and falls below 135 mEq/L this is known as hyponatremia.

  • Intravenous fluids (IV fluids) – fluids that are given through a thin tube inserted into one of your veins to replace water, sugar, and salt that is lost through dehydration.

  • Low blood volume shock – a life-threatening condition that occurs when you suddenly lose a lot of blood or fluids in your body.

Written by:
Alice Schluger, PhD
Health Psychologist



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