15 Ways to Tell If You're Dehydrated
Dehydration—when the level of water in the body drops below what is necessary to function properly—isn't just a case of dry mouth or feeling a little parched. In hot weather, it can quickly become a serious medical condition that affects vital body systems like the brain and heart. Chronic dehydration can cause symptoms that seriously affect your quality of life. The first step in preventing it is to recognize it: These are 15 of the things that dehydration does to your body.
Your Skin Flushes
An early sign of dehydration can be flushed skin, a signal that the body needs more water to quell inflammation.
Your Body Temperature Rises
Without enough of the body's natural coolant—water—dehydration may cause you to develop a fever. If this is the case, hydrate and move to a cool environment immediately. A cool shower, bath or cool, wet compresses can help bring an elevated temperature down. If you or someone you're with has a fever over 102F, seek medical help right away.
Your Muscles Cramp
"Heat cramps" are caused by exertion in very hot environments. Excessive sweating can deplete your electrolytes, which can cause muscles to seize up. These cramps are most commonly felt in your arms, legs, abdomen or back.
You May Get Thirsty
As you become depleted of fluids, your body may send a "check engine" signal in the form of thirst, nudging you to drink some water. But that's not always the case; dehydration can sneak up on you, and your first sign can be one of these other symptoms.
A good rule of thumb, especially during hot weather: Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink water.
Your Urine Darkens
Urine should be clear or very light yellow; that's a sign that your kidneys are getting enough fluid to do their job. If your urine is a darker yellow, it can indicate that you're dehydrated.
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You Feel Dizzy or Weak
Dehydration can cause your blood pressure to drop and less blood and oxygen to reach the brain. That can leave you with feelings of dizziness or weakness. If you or someone you're with faints or loses consciousness, seek medical attention ASAP.
You Feel Nauseous
Dehydration can cause stomach upset, including nausea and vomiting. Throwing up eliminates more fluids from the body, which can make dehydration worse.
On the flipside, an illness that causes vomiting and diarrhea can itself result in dehydration. This is the most common cause of dehydration in children.
Your Mouth May Be Dry
A dry mouth can be one of the first signs of dehydration.
You Get a Headache
When you're dehydrated, the brain loses fluid, causing it to shrink and pull away from the skull. That tension can can cause a headache (one of the reasons why it's a common symptom of a hangover; alcohol dehydrates you). Dehydration can also trigger migraines.
You Become Constipated
Plenty of fluids are necessary to keep your digestive tract running smoothly, and when you're dehydrated, your bowels may move less frequently or not at all, causing stomach discomfort.
You Have Bad Breath
Dehydration can cause a lack of saliva, causing an increase in bacteria throughout your mouth. The result: Stinky breath.
You May Stop Sweating
With body fluids depleted, you may stop sweating and your skin may feel dry. This is a symptom that dehydration is severe. Without sweating, the body can no longer cool itself and will continue to overheat.
Your Heart Rate May Rise
When there's less water in your body, the amount of circulating blood decreases and the blood itself thickens. That means the heart has to work harder to pump blood everywhere it needs to go. That can cause a rapid heartbeat or palpitations. If
You May Feel Confused
Another symptom of severe dehydration, confusion or hallucinations can result from less blood or oxygen reaching the brain. This symptom warrants immediate medical attention.
You May Go Into Shock
Heat stroke—a condition that results when your body overheats—can cause your blood pressure to drop to dangerously low levels, leading to shock, which can be fatal.
Avoid heat stroke and dehydration by drinking plenty of water, especially during warmer weather. Experts advise drinking five to seven cups a day, and you may need more when it's hot or you're physically active. Sip water throughout the day—remember, don't wait until you become thirsty.
As for our current pandemic: To get through it at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.