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Beyond Thirsty: Dangers of Dehydration

When it’s a hot and dry Dallas day, and you’re wrung out but you don’t want to stop working, playing your favorite sport, working on the house, fixing the car or exercising, you may be courting disaster with a case of dehydration.

If you haven’t been drinking enough to keep up with the heat index or if you’ve been sick and lost fluids from diarrhea or vomiting, you may be putting yourself at risk for dehydration. Children and infants, as well as older adults, are especially susceptible and care needs to be taken to make sure they get plenty of water all day.

Symptoms of dehydration include a dry, sticky mouth, less urinary output, dark colored urine, dry skin, skin that feels cool, chills, headache and muscle cramps.

Here are some of the dangers of dehydration, including complications:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Listlessness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • Irritability
  • Not able to urinate
  • Cramps
  • Seizures
  • Hypovolemic shock
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Heat stroke
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Kidney stones
  • Kidney failure
  • Loss of consciousness

“Many of these symptoms are extremely serious and life-threatening,” said Advance ER physician Dr. Joseph Meier. “If you’re dehydrated and can’t rehydrate yourself quickly enough, or if your condition has deteriorated, get medical help immediately.”

Of these symptoms, hypovolemic shock may be one of the most serious. When the fluid levels of the body drop, blood volume also drops. Blood pressure can bottom out and oxygen is no longer moved through the body properly. Reversing the deterioration by intravenous (IV) fluids is imperative or death may follow.

What tests may be done to diagnose dehydration?

Your physician may be able to diagnose you without having to run tests. If tests are needed, he or she may ask for a blood test to check levels of potassium and sodium as well as to see if the kidneys are functioning.

Another test that may be required is a urinalysis. This will tell the doctor if your kidneys are stressed as well as if you’ve gotten a urinary tract infection from the dehydration. Your physician will then be able to treat not only the dehydration but the secondary infection as well.

Your blood pressure will be checked to determine the level of dehydration. A blood sugar test may be required to check for diabetes.

What is the treatment for dehydration?

“If you are past the point of being able to safely rehydrate yourself with water and electrolyte-rich drinks and foods, your need to go to an emergency department,” said Dr. Meier. “Try using Pedialyte® or Hydralyte® with children and infants. Give it to them by the teaspoonful or with a syringe. But if it’s not working, don’t waste time. Bring them in.”

Your emergency medicine physician will give you an IV of balanced fluids, electrolytes and salt that will help your body recover from the stress of dehydration. If there is a cause, such as stomach flu, your provider will likely treat the cause as well. For severe cases, patients may need to stay in the hospital overnight.

Where can I get help when I’m dehydrated?

Advance ER has two convenient locations so we’re in a neighborhood close to home, school and work in the Galleria Area or Park Cities. Open all day, every day, we’re here when you need us.

Advance ER – the right care in the right place at the right time.