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How to Spot the Signs of Dehydration

May 18, 2015 10:30AM ● By Amy
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By Dr. Josh Prickett, Medical Director, North Tarrant E-Care Emergency Center

It won’t be long until North Texas is once again baking under 100-plus degree temperatures, making dehydration a significant concern  This condition can be extremely serious, leading to muscle cramps and even worse symptoms. Here is some information on dehydration, including why it happens, ways to spot the signs and how to prevent this problem.

How Dehydration Occurs
Dehydration occurs when a person’s body loses too much fluid, either through sweating, vomiting or diarrhea. While the body usually is able to obtain fluids from tissues or the blood, when dehydration is severe there are no reserves from which to pull. As a reason, blood can have a difficult time getting to the organs and shock – which can potentially be fatal – can set in.

This problem can be especially serious for babies, small children and the elderly. Babies’ bodies are composed of more water than older children and adults, and small children have a higher rate of metabolism. In addition, children’s kidneys do not do as good of a job at conserving water as do adults. Elderly people may not drink enough fluids due to incontinence worries, may not feel as thirsty as younger adults, and their kidneys do not typically work as well.

There are several ways you can tell if someone is starting to experience dehydration. For example, a baby or small child may pass urine that is darker than normal, or may feel tired, dizzy or unusually cranky. Also, the eyes and mouth may be drier than normal. 

When symptoms become severe, a person may exhibit weakness, confusion and be unable to sweat. Other signs include a headache, a sluggish feeling or difficulty breathing. If someone experiences abdominal or chest pains, that is a sign they need to get medical help immediately. 

The sooner you spot the signs of dehydration, the better you can help keep the problem from becoming dangerous. Give the person small sips of water or a sports drink, and find the nearest shady area. Remove excess layers of clothing and put a wet t-shirt or towel around their neck. This will help their body return to a normal temperature.

Make sure you bring plenty of sports drinks or water with you when exercising, and try to drink some every 15-20 minutes while outside. If you will be exercising more than an hour, bring a sports drink. Children ages 4-10 should drink at least six cups of liquid to replace any fluids they lose. 

Also, if you are going to be outside on a hot day for an extended period of time, avoid drinking alcohol. Not only does it hurt your decision-making ability, it can also speed dehydration. If you feel dizzy or lightheaded at any time you are outside, stop what you are doing immediately and get some rest.

If you would like to learn more from doctors near Southlake about dehydration, call E-Care Emergency Centers at 817-281-7277. If you ever need emergency or urgent care, use this convenient form to check in online.

Josh Prickett, MD, is currently medical director for North Tarrant location of E-Care Emergency Center in North Richland Hills. Dr. Prickett graduated from the University of Oklahoma Medical School and has been practicing emergency care in Oklahoma, Minnesota and Texas since 1989.  He has been married to his wife Carin for 30 years. They have a son Jonathan, a daughter Whitney, and a son-in-law John. Dr. Prickett and his family are active in their church and love being Southlake residents.