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Dehydration: Signs, Symptoms, and Effects

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Dehydration: Signs, Symptoms, and Effects

Internal Medicine | Posted on 06/03/2024 by Dr. Sushil Kalra


Do you often experience headaches, fatigue, or lightheadedness? Well, summers are here and it is very common to come across such symptoms of dehydration. Dehydration is a health issue affecting several individuals every day and is more common than we think. Its frequency is quite surprising as it ranges from the elderly forgetting to drink sufficient water to students sitting through lectures without taking a break.

In this blog, we will shed light on dehydration, a quiet threat that is often ignored in favor of other health problems. Everyone is vulnerable, whether it's from the summer heat causing fluid loss or from a poor lifestyle leading to dehydration. This problem can lead to serious issues if neglected for a longer period. So, if you are constantly experiencing dehydration and are in discomfort, book your appointment with one of the best doctors in Jaipur at CK Birla Hospitals. Not only will you find the best diagnosis but effective care and treatment as well.

Please note that this blog is for informational purposes only and does not replace the relevance of a doctor’s consultation.

What is dehydration?

Dehydration is a health problem that occurs when the body begins losing more fluid than it takes in, interfering with the electrolyte balance needed for bodily functions. It is the outcome of improper fluid intake, excessive sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea. Some of the common symptoms are mild thirst, dry mouth, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, confusion, etc.

Dehydration affects individuals of all ages and backgrounds causing severe complications that involve organ failure, and even death if not treated on time. Prompt rehydration with water or electrolyte-rich fluids is very important to retrieve balance and avert health complications further.

What are the symptoms of dehydration?

If you suspect that you or your child is suffering from dehydration, make sure to look for the following dehydration symptoms and seek immediate medical attention: 

Symptoms of dehydration in adults

  • Feeling thirsty 
  • Urine color becomes darker 
  • Feelings of tiredness and low energy
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Dryness in the mouth and lips
  • Headaches 
  • Decreased frequency or volume of urination
  • Dry, flushed, or lose elasticity in the skin
  • Painful muscle cramps

Symptoms of dehydration in children

  • Dry mouth or cracked lips
  • Decreased frequency or volume of wet diapers in infants and toddlers
  • Crankiness or fussiness in children than usual
  • Sunken or have dark circles around the eyes
  • Produce fewer tears when crying
  • Reduced energy levels or increased tiredness
  • Elevated heart rate in children
  • Soft spots on the top of the head appear to be sunken.
  • Hands and feet may feel cooler than usual because of decreased circulation

What are the causes of dehydration?

Diarrhea is often one of the most common causes of dehydration. However, there are several other causes as well such as:

  • Not drinking sufficient fluids throughout the day
  • Intense physical activity, or fever due to hot weather
  • Loss of fluids and electrolytes imbalance from frequent bowel movements (diarrhea)
  • Fluids loss and electrolytes from recurrent vomiting episodes
  • Increased body temperature causing fluid loss through sweating
  • Certain medications can increase urine output causing fluid loss as a side effect
  • Diabetes, kidney disease, and other conditions affect fluid balance increasing the risk of dehydration

What are the complications of dehydration?

Severe dehydration causes serious complications if left untreated for a longer period. So, if you or your children are experiencing the symptoms of dehydration, get immediate medical attention. Here are some complications caused by dehydration:

How is dehydration diagnosed?

Healthcare experts involve a combination of medical history, physical assessment, and laboratory tests to diagnose dehydration. Here are these tests:

  • Medical history: It involves questioning about symptoms such as thirst, dry mouth, dark urine, dizziness, or confusion.
  • Physical examination: In this test, the doctor assesses important signs, skin turgor (elasticity), mucous membranes, and general hydration position.
  • Laboratory tests: Blood tests assist in identifying the levels of electrolytes such as sodium and potassium that include indicators of dehydration like increased blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine.
  • Urinalysis: Increased urine osmolality and concentrated urine with a high specific gravity could be signs of dehydration.
  • Other tests: In serious cases, imaging studies or further assessment might be required to identify organ function and hydration status.

What are the options available for dehydration treatment?

Dehydration treatment often involves refilling the lost fluids and electrolytes. It's important to seek medical attention immediately for serious dehydration, especially in susceptible people like infants, elderly individuals, or those with underlying health conditions. Here are the treatment options: 

  • Oral rehydration therapy (ORT): Drinking oral rehydration solutions (ORS) including an accurate balance of water, salts, and sugars to substitute lost fluids and electrolytes.
  • Intravenous (IV) fluids: In serious cases or when oral intake is difficult, fluids and electrolytes are managed directly into the bloodstream through an IV.
  • Antiemetics: Medications to reduce nausea and vomiting, assisting oral rehydration.
  • Treating underlying causes: Dealing with conditions such as diarrhea, vomiting, or fever contributing to fluid loss.
  • Adjusting medications: Changing medication routines that might aggravate dehydration.
  • Monitoring: Daily managing hydration status and electrolyte levels to confirm effective treatment and avert complications.


Dehydration is a serious condition that has substantial health consequences if not treated on time. It occurs due to several causes like improper fluid intake, excessive sweating, illness, or medication side effects. Identifying the symptoms of dehydration and immediately controlling them through oral rehydration therapy, intravenous fluids when required, and treating underlying causes are important for recovery purposes. Prevention is very important, focusing on staying hydrated, mainly during hot weather, illness, or physical activity. By comprehending the risks, symptoms, and treatment options for dehydration, it becomes easier to safeguard overall health and well-being.



Can dehydration cause a headache?

Yes, dehydration causes headaches because of decreased fluid levels that impact blood flow and brain functionality.

Can dehydration cause fever?

Dehydration doesn't cause fever, but it can accompany diseases causing fever, aggravating the problem of fluid loss.

Can dehydration cause stomach pain?

Dehydration causes stomach pain due to decreased blood flow to the stomach lining and elevated production of acid in the stomach.

Can dehydration cause dizziness?

Yes, dehydration causes dizziness by reducing blood pressure and lowering blood flow to the brain which affects balance and causes lightheadedness.