Unusual Signs of Dehydration | Complete Guide to Diagnosis & Remedies

Jessica Lewis
August 12, 2016

A person can get dehydrated when he doesn’t have the necessary amount of fluids in his body. If a person doesn’t drink water or other liquids for an extended period of time, he can have severe health problems. In some cases, the person has to be hospitalized.

What is dehydration?

When is dehydrated the body doesn’t have enough water to function as it is supposed to. The dehydration occurs when the body loses too much fluid. It happens when a person is sweating a lot, for example.

Dehydration causes

  • high fever
  • health complications because of diabetes
  • if a person doesn’t consume enough water, especially in hot summer days.
  • intense exercising
  • drinking large amounts of alcohol
  • having diarrhea or vomiting
  • consuming diuretics

Dehydration symptoms

If a person is mildly or moderately dehydrated he might:

  • have headaches
  • feel thirsty
  • feel dizzy and light-headed
  • have a darker color of urine
  • feel the mouth and the tongue dry

If that person is severely dehydrated he might:

  • not urinate at all
  • become cranky and confused
  • be very thirsty
  • have a low blood pressure and increased heart rate
  • have a very dry mouth
  • breath faster than usually
  • have fever

Dehydration treatment

If a mild dehydration occurs, it can be fixed if the person drinks a lot of fluids. If you have reasons to believe you are dehydrated, you can prepare a solution with six teaspoons of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt in one liter of boiled water. You can get similar solutions from any pharmacy. Make sure you don’t drink caffeine and alcohol; these beverages can make you more dehydrated. Try to avoid drinking on a regular basis beverages with a lot of sugar and additives. They do not hydrate the body, and the calorie intake is very high.

If you have severe dehydration, you need to go to the hospital. Here the medical staff will hydrate you with fluids through an intravenous drip.

Prevent dehydration

You need to drink enough water every day. Drink plenty of it in hot weather, after you exercise or after an illness.
If you are severely dehydrated, you should start immediately drinking a lot of water or specially prepared solutions. Go to your health provider or the emergency room if you have acute symptoms.[1]

Risk factors

Some people have higher risks to get seriously ill if they get dehydrated:

Older adults

When people get old, they are more likely to get dehydrated. The organism’s capacity to preserve water is reduced. The thirst can be less acute, and the old person has a hard time to adjust to temperature changes. Unfortunately, many older people, especially those living alone or in specialized nursing centers, eat and drink less than younger people do. If these older adults have severe health conditions and they are neglected for a long period, it can lead to dehydration issues. This situation occurs with older people under medication, with dementia or diabetes. Specialists discovered in different studies that seniors can deal with defects in osmoreceptors and baroreceptors and changes in the central regulatory mechanisms. Old people have low water reserves, and it is recommended for them to drink water often, even if they are not thirsty and to increase the salt intake when they sweat. If the elderly follow these recommendations, they can prevent stroke, sudden hypotension or chronic fatigue. They avoid this way hospitalization as well.

Infants and children

The little ones are very vulnerable to dehydration. They can lose a lot of fluids if they have diarrhea, for example.

Endurance athletes

Any person who exercises can get dehydrated, especially in hot weather or at high altitudes. But athletes have an increased risk because they train harder. Athletes who participate in mountain climbing expeditions, marathons, triathlons, and cycling tournaments can become dehydrated very fast. During the practice, their body can lose more water than it can absorb. With every hour they exercise, the fluid debt will increase. It is important for them to drink water very often to avoid severe dehydration. Sweating is the way to normalize a high body temperature.But when a lot of sweating is involved, people experience hypohydration. That means they lose electrolytes and the plasma’s volume is reduced. All these lead to increased plasma osmolality. Plasma osmolality gives information about the body’s electrolyte-water balance.

People with chronic illnesses

People with diabetes need to drink water often. Those with kidney disease and heart failure can get dehydrated as well. When you have a sore throat or a cold is recommended to drink water and tea often. People who make fever can also get dehydrated.

People working or exercising outside in hot, humid weather

The humid and hot weather can stimulate the body to lose fluids faster. Because the body has a high temperature, the need to drink water is increased.

People living at high altitudes

When you live, work or exercise at high altitudes you can deal with different health problems. Dehydration occurs when the body tries to adjust to high altitude. The person does that by urinating often and breathing faster. It seems like, the faster a person breathes to maintain the necessary oxygen levels in the blood, the more water vapor that person exhales. After the body gets used to the hot environment, it can adapt, and the sodium loss is conserved. The risk for heat stress health problems is reduced. If you drink plenty of water during this process of heat acclimatization, will not help your body to adapt faster to the heat. But you can at least avoid a mild dehydration. Even if mild, this dehydration can increase the level of cortisol, which will make you sweat more, and will generate electrolyte imbalances.[2]


Dehydration can severely affect a person’s health if not addressed in time:

Swelling of the brain

After an extended period of dehydration, the body absorbs water really fast into the cells. This is the reason why some cells can swell, or they can break. The situation is severe when the brain’s cells are the one affected.

Low blood volume shock

Because of this shock, many people lost their lives. The low blood volume means a low blood pressure and less oxygen in the body.


Potassium and sodium are the electrolytes that help the cells to communicate to one another, through electrical signals. If these electrolytes are out of balance, the messages between cells lead to involuntary muscle contractions. In some cases, the person lost the consciousness.

Coma and death

If dehydration is not treated in time, there is a risk for that person to die.

Heat injury

Make sure you drink enough fluids when you’re exercising to avoid a thermal injury. You can experience mild or severe heat cramps or, in some cases, life-threatening heatstroke.

Kidney failure

This dangerous health problem occurs when the kidneys cannot remove the excess fluids and the toxins from the blood.[3]

Dehydration in children

A child can get dehydrated because of fluid loss or because he is not drinking enough water. If dehydration is severe, you might need to take the child to the hospital for medical assistance.

Causes of dehydration

A child can get dehydrated because of gastroenteritis. The little one can lose the body fluids very fast. If your child is vomiting or he is having diarrhea, he might end up being dehydrated as well.
If he refuses to drink water for long periods of time, he could also get dehydrated.
Teenagers can dehydrate quickly if they have a sustained physical activity and they sweat a lot.

Dehydration symptoms in children

A baby who is dehydrated will urinate less. You can verify that by checking the nappies if they are less wet than usual.

A dehydrated child can display these symptoms:

  • fewer tears when he cries
  • feeling thirsty
  • looking pale
  • weighing less because of the fluid loss
  • feeling tired and without energy
  • the fontanelle in a small baby can be depressed
  • dark spots under eyes and dry mouth

Is recommended to go to the doctor if:

  • you feel something is wrong with your child
  • the child is vomiting, and he has diarrhea for a long period
  • the child or the baby has the symptoms described above

Treatment for dehydration

  • As a fast remedy, you can give your child more water, or oral rehydration solution. You can freeze the solution and serve it as an icy pole.
  • Make sure you give water to the baby in small amounts, but often.
  • If it is necessary, don’t hesitate to go to the hospital with him, to be hydrated faster.
  • The medical staff can hydrate the little one the intravenous way.

Prevent dehydration in children

As a prevention measure, you can take the child to the doctor if you notice that the little one lost a lot of fluids because of an illness or health condition.[4]

Effects of dehydration

Physical performance

When engaged in physical activity, athletes, and the military need serious and often hydration. During athletic events, people lose more than 7% of body weight in sweat loss. If an athlete is mildly dehydrated, his performance is reduced. The level of fatigue is increased, the thermoregulatory capability is altered, the motivation is reduced, and the athlete is making higher efforts. If this person starts to drink water can balance the functioning of the body and can reduce oxidative stress. Hypohydration occurs more often in individuals involved in high-intensity and endurance activity (tennis and long-distance running) than in individuals participating in anaerobic activities (weight lifting) or those involved in shorter-duration activities (rowing).
Studies in athletes discovered that, at the beginning of the season, they could dehydrate quickly because they lack acclimatization to weather conditions.

Cognitive performance

Mild dehydration can produce modifications in important aspects of cognitive function such as alertness, short-term memory, and concentration in children, young adults and older adults. When they get a mild to moderate level of dehydration, these individuals can feel that particular tasks are harder to perform such as arithmetic ability, visual tracking, short-term memory, perceptual discrimination, and psychomotor skills. Doctors say that mild dehydration will not seriously alter cognitive functioning.

Dehydration and delirium

Many studies showed that dehydration is one of the reasons for confusion in older people. Older adults who have renal insufficiency, restricted mobility, dementia, incontinence, and drug side effects can have issues with hydration as well. Older people have less need to drink water, and they consume it less in comparison to younger people.

Gastrointestinal function

Many people complain about constipation. This is a health condition characterized by small, hard stools, difficulty in passing stool, and slow gastrointestinal transit. A person can get constipated because of a poor diet, and inadequate fiber intake. An elementary treatment is to drink plenty of water to stimulate the gastrointestinal transit. Studies show that increasing the water intake daily did not help to treat constipation in children. Japanese women often deal with constipation as well because they do not consume enough fibers. When this is associated with small amounts of water consumed, these women become constipated.
In many countries, diarrheal diseases are the leading cause of death in children. Diarrhea is a result of electrolytes imbalances as well. Children can be fast hydrated with special solutions with sugar and salt; this way adults can prevent their death.

Heart function and hemodynamic response

The heart rate and the blood are closely linked to each other. The blood volume is regulated by the amount of water consumed. Blood donors can experience a decrease in the blood volume. People can adjust their heart rate and the blood pressure through water intake. Blood donors must stay hydrated to avoid vasovagal reaction with syncope. Doctors believe that the effect of water consumption in those situations is regulated by the sympathetic nervous system and not by the changes in blood volume.


When a person is dehydrated, it has frequent headaches. You can prevent having a headache, by making sure you consume enough water.


People believe they will improve the appearance of their skin if they consume water frequently. The skin will look moisturized, and any health conditions such as acne will be enhanced. The Internet is full of quick remedies that recommend drinking 8–10 glasses of water a day. The water intake will eliminate the toxins and will give to the skin a glowing complexion. Unfortunately, this might be just a myth. No studies were made to prove all these.

It is known that the skin contains approximately 30% water. This percentage of water is responsible for the elasticity, plumpness, and resiliency of the skin. Skin hydration is not the only way to prevent wrinkles or other signs of aging. Some of these signs are closely related to genetics or environmental damage. It is recommended to use moisturizing creams to regenerate and nourish the skin properly.

Hydration and chronic diseases

Specialists discovered that there is a close relationship between good hydration and reduced risk of making urolithiasis. Some other studies identified a connection between daily hydration and positive effects on asthma, hypertonic dehydration in infants, constipation, and hyperglycemia in diabetic ketoacidosis. A person who stays hydrated has fewer risks to develop hypertension, fatal coronary heart disease, venous thromboembolism, urinary tract infections, and cerebral infarct.

Choose to consume living water

It is recommended to avoid drinking tap water because it contains heavy metals, fluoride, and it is disinfected with products that can cause health issues. You can install a water filter in your kitchen to make sure that these harmful substances are strained.
If you want good quality water for you and your family, you can drink the so-called “living” water. This is spring water. This type of water has a very similar structure to that of our cells. It has a negative charge. That means the spring water can hold or it can deliver energy in the human body.
Scientists believe that distilled water is too acidic and alkaline water is too much on the alkaline side. Spring water is the best choice because it has the necessary balanced PH (between 6.5 and 7.5). Drinking spring water, it is a way to nourish your entire body and ensure its proper functioning.
Make sure you deposit the spring water you consume in glass recipients. Avoid plastic bottles because they contain many chemical substances such as bisphenol B, bisphenol A, and phthalates. These substances can be harmful to your health.
After you decide on the type of water you want to consume, make sure you always stay hydrated, especially during hot summer months. If necessary carry a bottle of water with you everywhere you go.

When you exercise, drink water at every 15-20 minutes and consume a sport drink if you plan to exercise more than one hour.[6]