Here we’ll take a look at all the factors that can cause dehydration in adults and the subsequent side effects that one should be aware of in order to take action before things take a turn for the worse.
It doesn’t take extreme temperatures or even feeling thirsty, for that matter, to expose yourself to the dangerous risks of dehydration.
However, the onset can be much quicker if you haven’t been drinking water regularly or you’ve lost more fluids than usual recently due to sickness (vomiting, diarrhea), or extreme heat exposure (excessive sweating), and haven’t replenished fluids steadily and quickly enough.
Conditions Ripe for Dehydration
Dehydration can come about from environmental factors, health status, and physical exertion as well. Not to mention that just by us breathing, we are losing moisture (salt water mostly). Of course, it goes without saying that liquids are mostly lost as we sweat and go to the bathroom.
When you lose more than you replace, you most likely will experience the sluggish state of dehydration. But that is not all that you might feel as you’ll read below.
For those who are wondering ‘how to know when I’m dehydrated‘ read this also and learn to test yourself for dehydration – you’ll also see how dehydration can be measured.”
Main Causes of Dehydration in Adults
- High Altitude – Breathing in thinner air with less oxygen requires more breaths. Thus, breathing out more, releases more moisture.
- Temporary Illnesses – Vomiting. Diarrhea. Again you get the picture.
- Severe Illnesses – Diabetes, Cystic Fibrosis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and Chrohn’s disease all carry symptoms regarding the speeding up of fluid loss.
- Medications – Some medications can cause dehydration due to being diuretic in nature. For example, medications given for ADHD, stimulants that raise catecholamines levels, the fight or flight chemicals (norepinephrine and dopamine), antihistamines, laxatives, cardiac patients taking blood pressure medicine, chemotherapy.
- Electrolyte Imbalance Causing Medications – antibiotics, birth control, corticosteroids, diuretics, antifungal
- Alcohol – Hangovers lead to sever dehydration. Binge drinking alcohol induced urination more often and inhibits the hormone that’s responsible for making sure our bodies absorb water. Some mixed drinks usually contain generous amounts of sugar. So in essence, you’re losing hydration as you drink alcoholic beverages.
- Coffee & Sports Drinks – Caffeine acts as diuretic and leads to more frequent urination. These types of beverages consumed in excess can contribute to dehydration.
- Heat – High heat causes exorbitant sweating, loss of salt water. It’s extremely dangerous if exercising in the heat.
- Age – Senior citizens above the age of 60 retain less fluids in the body, thus dehydration can occur more rapidly.
- Pregnancy – Morning sickness leading to vomiting can cause women to lose more liquids and require more liquids in general especially after giving birth due to breastfeeding.
And of course…
- Exercising – This goes without saying. Prolonged physical activity raises your body’s temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and leads to excessive sweating and deeper breaths.
IMPORTANT: What needs to be remembered is that when exercising, your body can only absorb so much water. When exercising excessively in the heat you can become dehydrated even if you’re drinking the proper amounts of liquids. You can only absorb about one 200ml bottle per hour, however the problem is – you can sweat out more than 2 bottles per hour.
Even when you’re just slightly dehydrated, you can lose your thirst sensation and don’t feel thirsty.
When you’re severely dehydrated your blood will thicken and this makes it harder for your heart to pump.
Chronic dehydration from generally not drinking enough water is a big problem. So many often go an entire day without drinking anything and have to be reminded, practically forced to drink something. If you are finding that you are just not thirsty, think about this:
Dehydration is shown to effect athletic and basic human performance in all activities. The one most actually hold dear, being in a good mood, but just can’t seem to maintain it. It just might be that they’re just always mildly dehydrated. Being dehydrated at some level is easy to do and most are dehydrated most of their adult life.”
Signs of Dehydration in Adults
If your body is dehydrated, chances are you’ll be feeling some of these common symptoms. From mild to severe here are all the consequences of dehydration.
- Muscles cramping up
- Impaired cognitive function
- Fever, chills
- Fatigue, Sluggishness
- Dry mouth, Dry Skin
- Bad breath from lack of saliva
- Food craving, especially sweets
Side Effects of Dehydration in Adults
Symptoms of Dehydration in Adults (Mild to Moderate)
Of course there are varying degrees of dehydration. You could have a mild case, be moderately dehydrated, or worse; be severely dehydrated. Symptoms of dehydration can be identified by the following:
- feeling thirsty (however most don’t feel thirsty)
- being easily irritable
- feeling restless or uneasy
- decreased skin turgor (apply ‘pinch test’)
- decreased urination
- no tears, low eye moisture
- dry mucous, dry mouth, dry nose
- sunken eyes, fontanel (soft spot on top of baby’s head)
Signs of Severe Dehydration in Adults
- loss of or diminished consciousness
- fast or weak heart beat
- numbing, tingling sensation in hands or feet
- severe cramping in extremities
- cool or moist extremities
- little to no urination
- stroke (mostly in elderly)
- hypovolemic shock
- organ failure
As you can see things get pretty serious, very fast, if dehydration is left untreated.
Elderly Dehydration Symptoms
Especially if you’re in your 50’s or older, thirst receptors may not be fully functioning, thus the elderly won’t necessarily feel thirsty. Because of this they must be conscious about drinking the daily recommended liquids throughout the day, perhaps using an alarm as a reminder.
The same causes, symptoms, and side effects also apply to this age group, however they are at a higher risk and need to exercise extreme caution when doing any activities out of the norm by drinking water more frequently.
Quick Solution for Dehydration
Electrolytes. A healthy mixture of chloride, calcium, sodium, bicarbonate, potassium, and magnesium are needed to restore you to full health shall you feel any signs of dehydration listed above.
These minerals will do wonders in maintaining your body’s hydration levels, while promoting proper functioning of your vital organs such as your heart, and their cells, muscles and nerve cells as well.
There are excellent high quality electrolyte sticks (powder mixes) that provide near instant relief when feeling dehydrated and are also used to outright prevent dehydration from creeping in.
You can find our top recommendations on the best brands here.
The first thing to keep in the back of your mind is that not feeling thirsty is NOT a sign that you aren’t dehydrated.
Regardless of your age, it is wise to not wait until you are thirsty to drink water. If you are thirsty it means you are already dehydrating. Now that you’ve got a feeling for all the causes and symptoms to watch out for, you’ll be more prepared and have a better idea of how to prevent or if need be, treat dehydration at all times.