Dehydration Emergencies Recognizing the Signs and When to Seek Help
Although it may seem unlikely, dehydration is a common condition that affects people of all ages. The problem is so widespread that some estimate that around 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated.
You can become dehydrated when your body loses more fluids than it takes in. While most cases of dehydration can be resolved by drinking water and rehydrating, severe dehydration can become a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Getting to know about dehydration emergencies can potentially help save lives.
Understanding Dehydration Emergencies
Dehydration occurs when the body lacks enough fluids, such as water, to perform normal functions. Causes can include excessive sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, insufficient fluid intake, or a combination of these factors.
When you become dehydrated, your body struggles to maintain the right balance of fluids, electrolytes, and minerals necessary for optimal functioning.
Signs of Severe Dehydration
Warning signs of severe dehydration can vary depending on age, underlying medical conditions, and activity level.
The following is a list of the most common warning signs of dehydration emergencies by age group.
Signs of Severe Dehydration in Children
Dehydration can be particularly concerning for children, as they are more susceptible to its effects. Pay attention to the following warning signs of severe dehydration in children:
- Dry or sticky mouth and tongue
- Sunken eyes or cheeks
- Inability to produce tears when crying
- Lethargy or irritability
- Reduced urination (or absence of wet diapers in infants)
- Dry, cool skin
- Dizziness or fainting
Close monitoring of these symptoms in children is crucial. Please seek immediate medical attention if you observe any of the above symptoms in your child.
Signs of Severe Dehydration in Adults
Adults can also experience severe dehydration, and it is important to be aware of the warning signs, which may include:
- Extreme thirst and dry mouth
- Fatigue and weakness
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Confusion or disorientation
- Reduced urine output or dark-colored urine
- Sunken eyes or lack of tears
- Rapid heartbeat and breathing
- Muscle cramps
If you notice these symptoms in yourself or another adult and they worsen, immediate medical assistance is necessary.
Find out about Heat-Related Emergencies
Signs of Severe Dehydration in Adults Over 65
Older adults are more vulnerable to dehydration due to decreased thirst sensation and a reduced ability to conserve water. Here are the most common warning signs to look out for:
- Excessive fatigue or exhaustion
- Confusion or altered mental state
- Rapid breathing and heartbeat
- Lightheadedness or fainting
- Low blood pressure
- Sunken eyes or dry, loose skin
- Constipation or difficulty urinating
When an older adult exhibits any of these signs, it is crucial to seek prompt medical attention.
When to Go to the ER for Dehydration
You can correct the effects of mild to moderate dehydration at home by increasing your fluid intake and taking an electrolyte drink.
However, severe dehydration can cause complications that require emergency care. Please visit the nearest RapidCare ER when you notice any of the following:
- You or your loved one is showing severe dehydration symptoms
- Dehydration accompanied by a high fever, severe abdominal pain, or persistent vomiting
- There are signs of heatstroke, such as a body temperature of 104°F or higher, confusion, or seizures
- The person is unable to keep down fluids or oral rehydration solutions
- Symptoms do not improve despite attempts to rehydrate at home