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Am I Dehydrated?

With all of the heat this time of year, dehydration is a constant concern. It can also be concerning when dealing with the stomach flu or other issues that cause acute illness. How do you know when to go to the doctor? What can you do at home if you feel dehydration is a possibility? Read this article to find out more.

What is dehydration?
Dehydration is the term for when the body has lost too much water. Our bodies are made up of a majority of water and when we lose too much it causes the symptoms of dehydration. Some ways we lose water normally are with sweating and urinating. When we are ill, we may lose water with vomiting and diarrhea as well. If more water is lost from the body than is replaced by drinking and eating, dehydration occurs.

What are the symptoms?
Acute dehydration often presents with dizziness, lightheadedness, headaches and sometimes confusion and fatigue. Usually you will feel thirsty and you will have decreased urination with dark, strong-smelling urine. Your mouth and lips may be dry and cracked. In babies who have acute vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration is often characterized by a sunken in fontanelle, or "soft spot" on the top of their heads.

When do I see my medical provider?
If you have any of the above mentioned symptoms, you should seek care with your primary care provider. Any children who have prolonged diarrhea or vomiting persisting more than 48 hours should be evaluated by a medical provider as well to determine whether dehydration is present. Also, any babies who have not had a wet diaper in 8 to 12 hours should be evaluated by your doctor.

How is it treated?
The first line treatment for dehydration is oral rehydration at home. This means fluid replacement with water and electrolyte fluids such as Gatorade. If you are unable to keep fluids down, such as with vomiting or severe diarrhea, intravenous (IV) fluid replacement is often warranted. This is generally carried out at a hospital. Your medical provider will determine what needs to be done based on a physical exam. Lab work such as urinalysis and blood tests looking at your electrolytes may give more information on the level of dehydration as well.

In the heat wave we have been having, it is important to keep yourself hydrated with plenty of fluid and electrolyte drinks. If you have to be outside, drink one glass of water for every hour of exposure, in addition to the 8 glasses of water per day. If you have concerns about dehydration or are unable to keep down oral rehydration, seek care with your medical provider today.

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