Dehydration is more common than you may think. It’s a commonly-known problem, occurring when the body loses too much fluid without having it replenished, but many people think that you only get dehydrated when you’re extremely thirsty and are exercising for a long period of time or stuck out in the Sahara desert with a cup of water and miles and miles of sand between you and the nearest oasis. Of course, these examples are both true. Many people who do exercise don’t drink enough water while they work out, and since they lose so much fluid through perspiration they do end up dehydrated. The same is true for those trudging through the desert, but these are extreme cases.
Many people become dehydrated through the course of their daily lives because they’re not drinking enough water. Often this happens gradually, and we’ll hardly notice it until at one point in the afternoon we feel extremely thirsty. If this happens to you, it’s a good indicator that you’ve been dehydrated for awhile, since if you feel thirsty it’s a definite sign of dehydration. Thirst isn’t the only side-effect; dehydration often leaves people feeling tired, lethargic, sickly, or even faint. Though you may be drinking liquid, caffeinated beverages or drinks with high sugar content aren’t very good at hydrating you, and diuretics like coffee can even leave you more dehydrated.
Dehydration is also a big issue if your body is losing a lot of unabsorbed water through diarrhea or vomiting. If this is the case, not only is the body losing a lot of water, people have a hard time replacing it if they feel sickly or nauseous. In most cases this can be remedied by pushing fluids, and electrolyte mixtures often speed the process of recovery. If the dehydration is serious it may be necessary to take fluids through an IV, though this is usually only required in extreme cases.
Anyone can become dehydrated, but certain people are at a greater risk, including infants, young children and people who work or exercise outdoors. In addition, older adults are more likely to become dehydrated.
As you age, your body’s fluid reserve becomes smaller, your ability to conserve water is reduced and your thirst sense becomes less acute. These problems are compounded by chronic illnesses such as diabetes and dementia, and the use of certain medications. Older adults also can have mobility problems that limit their ability to obtain water for themselves.
The best way to avoid dehydration, both in times of illness and in day to day life, is to make sure that you’re drinking enough water. It seems basic, but making an conscious effort to drink plenty of water over the course of the day can have great effects on your energy levels and your overall well-being. It’s usually as simple as carrying around a water bottle or keeping a glass of water filled on your counter at home, since if the water is there in front of you, you’re more likely to drink before you get dehydrated.
- Flavor it. Add fruit to your water – maybe some berries or lemon.
- Tie it into a routine. Drink a glass of water every time you brush your teeth, eat a meal or use the bathroom.
- Eat it. Many fruits and vegetables have a high water content, including melon, cucumbers, lettuce and celery.
- Challenge a friend. Kick off a healthy competition with a friend or your kids to see who can meet their guzzling goal most often.
- Take it to go. It can be challenging to drink enough water when you are on the go. Fill your water bottle before you leave home, and bring it along on your daily travels.
- Alternate your drinks. If you can’t give up soda or juice completely, try alternating with water. Each time you finish a glass of water, switch to soda or juice and vice versa.