Water is an essential part of the human body. It makes up more than two-thirds of the weight of an average person. It serves as a lubricant and it is the basis of saliva. It is also contained in the fluids surrounding our joints, protecting them from rubbing against each other. Our body temperature is regulated by water through perspiration, preventing us from overheating. Water also helps prevent and relieve constipation by moving food through the intestinal tract. While we can go several weeks without sleep, we would definitely die in a few days without water. All the cells and organs in our bodies need water to function properly.
Dehydration occurs when the body is lacking in water and fluids. Losing too much fluid, not drinking enough water, or both may cause dehydration. The body can lose fluids in a number of ways such as vomiting or diarrhea, excessive urination that comes with uncontrolled diabetes or the use of diuretics, excessive sweating, or fever. On the other hand, nausea, loss of appetite brought about by illness, and sore throat or mouth sores may lead a person to consume less than the recommended amount of water. Although dehydration may be more prevalent in hot or humid places, it is not impossible for someone in a cold environment to get dehydrated. Smaller body weights and higher water and electrolyte turnover make infants and small children more vulnerable to dehydration. Likewise, the elderly and the sick are also more susceptible.
Dehydration can be classified into three categories: mild, moderate, or severe. This classification is based on how much of the body's fluid is lost or not replenished. With mild dehydration, one can experience a lack of the production of saliva, a decrease in the frequency of urination, a decreased amount of urine, and a notably deep color and strong odor in the urine. In moderate dehydration, there is even less urine, a dry mouth, dry and sunken eyes, and a fast heart rate. In severe dehydration, there is nothing to urinate, the person is lethargic and irritable, and vomiting and diarrhea is prevalent. Dehydration can become life threatening if it reaches the severe stage. It can lead to shock, seizures, permanent brain damage, and then death.
The best way to prevent dehydration is to drink plenty of fluids everyday. When the weather is hot or when undergoing strenuous activities that entail sweating, even more water should be ingested. An ill person, whether he is an infant, a child or an adult, should be monitored at all times. They should be encouraged to drink fluids, keeping in mind that the body's need for fluids is greater when the person has fever, is vomiting, or is experiencing diarrhea. Waiting for signs of dehydration to appear is unacceptable.
Soda and tea or anything with caffeine are not suitable fluids to ingest when dehydrated. These drinks are diuretics and will only increase urine production. They also slow down the body's rate of rehydration. Mild dehydration can be treated with drinking electrolyte solutions or freezer pops. On the other hand, sports drinks contain a lot of sugar and may only aggravate diarrhea. Intravenous fluids and hospitalization may be necessary for moderate to severe dehydration.