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How To Tell If You’re Dehydrated

Dehydration can lead to dangerous symptoms, even a hospital stay. Luckily, staying hydrated is as easy as drinking water throughout the day.

Dehydration is common, especially in the summertime, among athletes, children, and the elderly. Usually, most cases of dehydration are mild to moderate, but certain instances of untreated or severe dehydration can require medical attention. The Mayo Clinic states dehydration occurs when one loses more fluid than they take in, which can occur when one sweats or loses fluids when they are sick. 


For adults, mild or moderate dehydration can result in symptoms including fatigue, dizziness, less frequent urination, dark urine, confusion, and extreme thirst. Everyday Health also lists bad breath as a symptom; a lack of saliva may indicate dehydration. Less common but equally important symptoms include dry skin, fever or chills, cramps, and headaches. Drinking water is the best way to combat these symptoms, and Healthline warns that beverages high in sugar or caffeine may only make things worse.

An unusual symptom of dehydration noted by Everyday Health is cravings for sugary foods.

“When you’re dehydrated, it can be difficult for organs such as the liver, which uses water, to release glycogen [stored glucose] and other components of your energy stores, so you can actually get cravings for food,” Dr. John Higgins of the University of Texas said.

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A quick and easy test to see if someone is dehydrated is to check the elasticity of the skin. Medline Plus recommends pinching and then lifting the skin on the lower arm or abdomen with two fingers for a few seconds, though this can also be performed on the hand. After holding for a few seconds, the skin should quickly snap back into place. If this does not happen, it indicates dehydration.


While most bouts with dehydration can be solved by getting out the heat and drinking water, severe dehydration can cause a trip to the emergency room. Heat stroke, rapid heartbeat, sunken eyes, and rapid breathing are sure signs of severe dehydration. It may be necessary to replenish fluids intravenously, which can include electrolytes as well as water. Everyday Health notes that electrolytes, including salt and potassium, are vital for keeping the body up and running and are also lost when one is dehydrated. For this reason, untreated severe dehydration can be fatal.

The best way to combat dehydration is to always have a water bottle handy to drink water throughout the day. While Serena Williams keeps up her athletic lifestyle by drinking a gallon of water a day, Harvard kidney specialist Dr. Julian Seifter told CNBC that most adults should try to drink four to six cups a day. Depending on how much someone sweats or exercises, water intake should be adjusted accordingly. Other healthful habits include drinking more during meals and eating more hydrating foods, including fresh fruits.

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