How to Tell if You’re Dehydrated

Drinking Water imageHave you ever wondered how to tell if you’re dehydrated? With the heat index hitting over 90 degrees in many parts of the US this week, dehydration can be a serious problem.

What to Look For

Symptoms of dehydration include a dry, sticky mouth, lethargy, thirst, decreased urine output, few or no tears when crying, dry skin and a decrease in skin elasticity, sunken eyes, headache, constipation, dizziness or lightheadedness.  If in doubt, check your urine color and frequency.  Clear or light colored urine signals that you’re well hydrated whereas dark yellow or amber colored urine that occurs infrequently, every 5 or more hours, can mean dehydration.

How Dehydration Happens

Simply stated, dehydration happens when you lose more fluids than you take in.  Under normal conditions we lose fluids every day when we sweat, go to the bathroom, or even breathe.  Under extreme conditions we can lose large amounts of fluids; for example during bouts of intense diarrhea, vomiting, fever, increased urination and excessive sweating (think hot, humid days).  It is easy to become dehydrated when these fluids are not replaced. A loss of just 1 – 2 percent of body water can put a strain on the cardiovascular system, and cause both health and performance to suffer. Dehydration can cause electrolyte imbalances, low blood volume, low blood pressure and increased heart rate.

How to Prevent Dehydration

Water is the single largest nutrient in the body — and one of the most important. Water is needed to prevent dehydration, regulate body temperature, keep skin moist, and transport oxygen and essential nutrients to cells.  So drink up as water in an essential nutrient that makes up 60% to 70% of the human body.

Stay hydrated this summer and don’t forget to drink often.  We’ve included the Institute of Medicine (IOM) guidelines for HOW MUCH you should drink below. Extreme fluids loses should be replenished through an oral hydration drink such as Pedialyte (for kids), Gatorade or Powerade which are formulated to replete fluids and lost electrolytes. Check with your physician immediately if you think you or your child may be suffering from severe fluid loss. And remember, in addition to water and other beverages, you can increase hydration by eating foods with a high water content such as melon, watermelon, oranges, grapefruits, grapes, lettuce, cucumbers, celery and tomatoes.

Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences Hydration Guidelines

Age Range Daily Water Adequate Intake
Infants
0-6 months 3 cups* (0.7 L), assumed to be from human milk.
7-12 months 3.5 cups (0.8 L), assumed to be from human milk and complementary foods and beverages.
This includes ~3 cups (0.6 L) as total fluid, including formula, juices and drinking water.
Children
1-3 years 5.5 cups (1.3 L) total water,** including ~4 cups (0.9 L) as total beverages, includingdrinking water.
4-8 years 7.5 cups (1.7 L) total water, including ~5 cups (1.2 L) as total beverages, includingdrinking water.
Adolescents Males Females
9-13 years 10.5 cups (2.4 L) total water, including ~8 cups (1.8 L) as total beverages, includingdrinking water. 10 cups (2.3 L) total water, including ~8 cups (1.8 L) as total beverages,including drinking water.
14-18 years 14 cups (3.3 L) total water, including ~11 cups (2.6 L ) as total beverages, including drinking water. 9 cups (2.1L) total water, including ~7 cups (1.6 L) as total beverages, including drinking water.
Adults Males Females
19-70+ years 16 cups (3.7 L) total water, including ~13 cups (3 L) as total beverages, including drinking water. 11.5 cups (2.7 L) total water, including ~9 cups (2.2 L) as total beverages, including drinking water.

Comments

  1. Coconut water has more electrolytes than leading sports drinks and 15x more potassium (potassium keeps your body properly hydrated and prevents cramping). Coconut water has more potassium than 2 bananas and is a natural, one ingredient, healthy beverage. Coconut water is great to have on hand, along with lots of water, if you are outside on a hot day and especially if you will be physically active. It can be purchased in single serving or 34 ounce/ 1 Litre containers at health food stores. I just found out about it a few weeks ago and love it!

  2. Pauline Longchamp says:

    quite informative. surprising amounts of water and beverages needed to stay hydrated. good info for present weather conditions around th united states.

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