Since water makes up between 50 and 75 percent of your body, it’s no surprise that running low on this vital element can be dangerous and even fatal.
Dehydration occurs when the amount of fluids (mostly water) leaving your body exceeds the amount of fluids you’re taking in. That’s why you often feel very thirsty after a big workout, during which your body loses fluids to sweat before you can stop and replace them.
While most dehydration is mild to moderate, severe dehydration can cause delirium and loss of consciousness. But the good news is that nearly all forms of dehydration are preventable – you just need to know what dehydration symptoms to watch out for.
Make sure you and your family stay out of the danger zone by understanding the signs of dehydration and knowing what to do to make sure your body has all the fluids it needs.
Predictably, the first sign that you’re body’s hydration level is beginning to wane is the familiar tingle of thirst in the back of your throat. By the time you start craving a sip of water, your body is already starting to feel the effects of dehydration.
2. Cotton Mouth
If your mouth has a dry, sticky feeling you’re probably not producing an appropriate amount of saliva.
While this condition can be caused by some prescription medications or even extreme nervousness, the most common cause is simple dehydration. When your body lacks the moisture needed to produce saliva, it leaves you with that uncomfortable, cotton mouth feeling.
When your head is pounding and you reach for the aspirin, it might actually be the water you use to swallow it down that really cures what ails you. An aching head can be a sign that you’re suffering from dehydration.
Headaches caused by dehydration can occur nearly anywhere on the head, but their defining characteristic is that movement tends to makes them worse.
4. Lack of Energy
Sleepiness and lethargy are other dehydration symptoms that let you know your body may be low in the fluid department. This can be especially prominent in infants and small children. Extreme lethargy can signal severe dehydration and may require a visit to the family doctor or ER.
5. Changes in Urination
One of the most reliable signs of dehydration is dark or discolored urine. Infrequent urination can also signal dehydration. Pay special attention to these symptoms in small children, as lack of urination can indicate a dangerous level of dehydration.
6. Muscle Cramps
Cramping muscles – especially in the lower extremities – are a common dehydration symptom.
In these cases, a nice, big glass of water can do more to relieve your aching muscles than a good stretch or a relaxing massage.
7. Dry Skin
If your skin is dry or cracked, it may not be your moisturizer’s fault. Dry skin is a dehydration symptom that is often overlooked.
Since sweat is an obvious indicator that you’re losing fluids, dry skin isn’t always associated with dehydration. But persistent dry skin or cracked lips are a common indicator that you need to drink more H2O.
How to Keep Your Body Hydrated
It may seem like a no-brainer that if you want to stay hydrated all you need to do is drink plenty of water.
But making sure we take in more fluids than we expel can be tricky. It’s best to rely on more than a glass of water to keep your hydration level in check. Here are a few ideas to help you keep dehydration at bay:
Keep water close: Get into the habit of carrying a bottle or thermos of water with you. If water is within reach, you’re more likely to drink it down.
Give tea a try: Tea is a great way to add variety to your fluid intake. And the bonus is that herbal teas offer a multitude of other health benefits as well.
Make room for fresh fruits and veggies: Make sure at least 50% of your dinner plate is covered in bright, fresh produce. Juicy fruits and vegetables are a natural source of water and a great way to augment your liquid intake.
Add water to your workout: Make sure to hydrate before, during, and after a workout. You’re going to be eliminating fluids as you hit the gym, so plan ahead to replenish as you go.
Hydration is a key to making sure you keep your body and mind functioning at prime levels. Now that you know common dehydration symptoms, be on the lookout and find ways to make hydration a regular part of your daily routine.