7 Symptoms of Dehydration

Close up of a glass of water being offered to someone by a child outdoors.

During the summer heat, you need to pay attention to staying properly hydrated. (Image: Yana Tatevosian via Dreamstime)

It is important to recognize the symptoms of dehydration. In summer, dehydration can be a major problem. Not only water, but also important electrolytes such as sodium and potassium, may be lost from the body and it becomes essential to replace them.

The dangers of dehydration 

The main reason why people need to rehydrate when they are ill is that illness often causes intermittent fevers. The body attempts to cool itself through sweating and this is how water is gradually lost. 

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The vomiting and diarrhea that are common in acute gastroenteritis can also cause significant water loss through the gastrointestinal tract. 

Severe dehydration can lead to adverse consequences and in extreme cases can cause fainting or death. Studies have shown that even mild dehydration, which means you have lost 1 to 2 percent of your body’s water, can prevent your body from functioning properly. 

However, it is not always easy to know when you are in the early stages of dehydration.

As summer heats up, if your body shows these seven symptoms of dehydration, you are reminded that you need to rehydrate as soon as possible.

Symptoms of dehydration 

1. Bad breath

Research says that bad breath can occur if the cleansing effect of saliva is diminished, leading to the growth of bacteria. Therefore, if you find that your breath is a little smelly, this could be a warning that you need to drink a glass or two of water.

One of the symptoms of dehydration is bad breath.
If you have bad breath, it could be a warning that you need to drink a glass or two of water. (Image: Pornchai Soda via Dreamstime)

2. Muscle cramps or spasms

Experts believe that one of the reasons people experience muscle cramps during exercise is dehydration and electrolyte depletion, which means the body doesn’t have enough key minerals such as sodium and potassium. These minerals help to balance the body’s pH levels and also control nervous system function. 

Walking around in hot weather and starting to feel muscle pain or tightness may indicate that not enough water is being drunk. If uncontrolled muscle cramps or spasms occur, take it as a reminder that it is time to drink some water. 

3. Headaches 

Headaches are a very common sign of mild to moderate dehydration. Dehydration can also trigger migraine attacks for reasons that are not fully understood. Research suggests that dehydration can actually temporarily shrink brain tissue, and this shrinkage can lead to pain. 

4. Dark-colored urine 

Look at the color of your urine. If it’s pale yellow, there’s plenty of water in your body. If it’s dark yellow, it’s time to drink water. Generally speaking, the more you drink, the clearer your urine should be. 

5. Hunger

The signals for thirst and hunger both come from the hypothalamus, the same area of the brain that controls body temperature. So if you find that you feel hungry soon after eating, it is crucial to consider whether you are actually thirsty. 

6. Excess thirst

Excess thirst is a sign of dehydration that many people ignore. You might get too caught up in your work or play to notice, and half the day is gone without you drinking any water at all. In more severe instances, you may experience a dry mouth or swollen tongue. These are early symptoms of dehydration that indicate you need to drink more water. 

Tired male student sleeping in class between two other female classmates who are busy taking notes.
The body can also feel tired when it is dehydrated. (Image: Antonio Guillem via Dreamstime)

7. Tiredness 

Staying hydrated is a very important part of maintaining energy throughout the day. Hydration provides cells with key nutrients and allows the body’s organs to function properly. The body can also feel tired when it is dehydrated.

Getting enough water throughout the day 

There are no hard and fast rules about how much water a person should drink in a 24-hour period. When you feel thirsty, you may already be mildly dehydrated, so it is important to be conscious of how much you are actually drinking. 

Friendly reminder — when you drink too much water at one time or in a short period of time, the burden on the kidneys increases, the homeostatic mechanism is disrupted, and the normal composition of body fluids is disturbed. If the body contains too much water that cannot be excreted through the urine, water can exist in the tissue spaces, which may lead to symptoms of water intoxication in the body. 

So excessive drinking and severe dehydration are both damaging to the body, and everyone needs to hydrate according to their own physical state.

Translated by Eva and Edited by Helen

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