Water forms a large part of our bodies and plays no small role in vital functions such as eliminating waste, transporting and absorbing nutrients and formation of body fluids. Dehydration occurs when a body loses more fluids than normal and the body faces shortage of water for normal functioning. While this condition can happen at any age, it can be very dangerous in babies and young children. Untreated severe dehydration can lead to seizures, permanent brain damage or death.
1. Gastrointestinal illness leading to diarrhea and vomiting can lead to dehydration. If a person does not replenish the water levels in the body with timely fluids, tremendous loss of water and electrolytes in a short amount of time is noticed. This can be life threatening in small babies and older persons.
2. Athletes, wrestlers and those engaging in sports may sweat and lose body water. Saunas and steam baths also have a dehydrating effect on the body. It can lead to electrolyte imbalance.
3. Fad diets, laxatives and diuretics can lead to dehydration.
4. Going out on a warm day and excessive sweating can cause the body to become dehydrated.
5. Aerated drinks, tea and coffee add to dehydrating effect
6. A person who is ill and running fever is more likely to become dehydrated.
Some of the symptoms of dehydration are dizziness and dry or sticky mouth. The dehydrated person produces less urine of a darker color. Low blood pressure and poor skin turgor are noticed. Dehydration can lead to dizziness and listlessness. In an infant it is imperative to recognize the symptoms of dehydration. The infant may become lethargic and have a marked sunken fontanelle (soft spot on the top of the head). The child may pass blood in the stools.
Drinking plenty of water and electrolytes can help in tackling dehydration. For severe cases of dehydration, intravenous fluids and hospitalization will be needed.
Oral rehydration therapy
Oral rehydration therapy or ORT was first defined by the WHO and UNICEF to mean the official solution (electrolyte) prescribed to counteract dehydration. It also includes homemade salt-sugar solutions that are administered to those suffering dehydration. The rehydrating solution must be given in small sips to minimize vomiting. In case the vomiting persists and is accompanied by worsening diarrhea and stupor-like symptoms, rush the person to the nearest medical aid.
Intravenous therapy or IV therapy involves using a vein to administer medicines or fluids to a person. IV is used for blood transfusion, electrolyte administration, medications or treating dehydration. Intravenous therapy allows instantaneous access to the blood supply. Using IV is suitable for patients who need continuous medication and when drugs are not well absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract. Using IV therapy might lead to swelling and pain around the area. Care must be taken to avoid infection of IV site.