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What Are the Side Effects of Being Dehydrated?

by
author image Patricia Nevins, RN, MSN
Patricia Nevins is a registered nurse with nearly 20 years of nursing experience. She obtained her Master of Science in nursing with a focus in education from the University of Phoenix. Nevins shares her passion for healthy living through her roles as educator, nursing consultant and writer.
What Are the Side Effects of Being Dehydrated?
Drink lots of water while exercising to help prevent dehydration. Photo Credit: rbv/iStock/Getty Images

Dehydration occurs when the total amount of water in your body is less than is needed for its normal function. You can become dehydrated by simply not drinking enough fluids. Vomiting, diarrhea, intense physical activity or alcohol consumption can also cause you to lose more fluid than your body can spare. There are several signs your body may give, however, to warn you of impending dehydration. Talk with your doctor about the proper treatment for dehydration -- especially if it involves the elderly, infants or small children.

Body Fluid Loss Symptoms

When you are dehydrated, your body will literally begin to dry out. You may notice that you don't have to urinate as much as normal or not at all. You may be thirsty, but this is not always the case with elderly patients. Your urine will be dark yellow. Your eyes mouth and lips will be dry. You may also experience muscle cramps caused by the loss of electrolytes through urine, diarrheal stools, vomit or sweating. Your skin may lose its elasticity. If the fluids in your blood drops too low, it can affect your kidney function, liver, bowels, joints and muscles. Your eyes may have a sunken look. A baby's soft spot or fontanel may be sunken as well.

State of Mind

Dehydration can affect your state of mind and general sense of well being. You may feel drowsy, listless, tired, lacking in strength, irritable or have difficulty concentrating. You may also have headaches, experience dizziness, feel light-headed or confused. In severe dehydration, patients may become comatose.

Dehydration in Babies

Dehydration is an even more serious problem for infants and small children because their bodies contain more water per pound than older children or adults. A dehydrated baby may not need to be changed as often as usual. They may cry, but you may not see any tears. Like adults, they eyes may be sunken and their mouths dry. You may notice rapid breathing or a faster than normal heart beat. If you think that an infant or young child is dehydrated, call your doctor immediately for consultation and treatment.

Symptoms Requiring Professional Care

The signs of severe dehydration include confusion, rapid heart beat, a weak pulse, cool hands and feet, seizures or bloody vomit or feces. You may not urinate for 8 hours or more. Your blood pressure may drop causing you to feel dizzy or about to pass out when you stand up. You may even lose consciousness altogether. Dehydration can cause death if your blood thickens and stops flowing. Severe dehydration requires immediate professional medical intervention. (See reference 2)

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