December 1, 2023

What Is Dehydration?

Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluids than it intakes, leaving your organs without enough liquid resources to work correctly. This may happen on hot days when excessive sweating happens or due to illness, resulting in vomiting and diarrhea. Mild dehydration may be treated by increasing fluid consumption at home— for more severe cases, hospitalization might be required so intravenous (IV) fluids can be administered. Severe dehydration should always be addressed quickly to avoid possible life-threatening situations. Dehydration affects people of all ages, with infants, young children, and older adults especially at risk.

The Essential Role of Water

Roughly 60% of a healthy human adult consists of water. Babies have a higher percentage than adults, making water an essential survival need. Water serves many vital purposes, including:

  • It provides joint and eye lubrication.
  • It improves digestion. It can make you feel fuller longer.
  • It assists in flushing away waste products.
  • It helps to maintain skin health.
  • It helps with body temperature regulation.
  • It helps with cellular function.
  • It aids the body with saliva and mucus formation.

As your body’s normal water levels decline, their proper balance can become disrupted — which impacts overall body functioning. This disruption can manifest symptoms that vary based on how much weight has been lost due to fluid loss.

Keeping adequate hydration levels is critical to our overall well-being. Even minor imbalances can have severe repercussions. Dehydration may result in various symptoms and, left untreated, can have severe ramifications for adults and children.


Five Effects of Dehydration you May Not Know

While some dehydration symptoms are easy to spot, others can be less clear and may improve once you rehydrate.

Can Dehydration Cause Nausea?

Feeling nauseated may be caused by dehydration. When you don’t drink enough water, your digestive system slows down, potentially leading to feelings of nausea. Rapid dehydration may take place in hot climates or when experiencing intense vomiting and diarrhea. If you find yourself feeling nauseated without a clear cause, reviewing recent water consumption might help determine why.

Does Dehydration Cause Dizziness?

Dizziness may be one of the symptoms of dehydration, which encompasses various sensations, including:

  • Vertigo: The sensation that something is spinning or moving unpredictably.
  • Lightheadedness: a woozy or heavy feeling in your head.
  • Imbalance: The wooziness can cause you to feel off-balance and unstable.

Dehydration can also add to low blood pressure or volume, leading to dizziness due to reduced blood flow reaching your brain.


Can Dehydration Cause Chest Pain?

Dehydration can raise your heart rate and produce palpitations or an uncomfortable pounding in your chest. Though not directly causing chest pain, dehydration could still bring discomfort. If someone has coronary heart disease or another heart-related issue, this feeling may be more prevalent with dehydration because the heart is working harder.

Can Dehydration Cause Stomach Pain?

Dehydration can contribute to abdominal pain. The severity of the dehydration often correlates with the intensity of the pain. A study examining those who presented to an emergency department with severe stomach discomfort found that many were chronically or acutely dehydrated. After all other probable explanations were ruled out, rehydrating the patients made them feel better.

Can Dehydration Cause Shortness of Breath?

When dehydration occurs, the mucus in our lungs and sinuses becomes thicker and stickier, making breathing more challenging. Likewise, dehydration dries out airway passages and increases the risk of respiratory illness and allergies. These situations can lead to shortness of breath. This effect is easier to see in individuals with chronic respiratory medical problems.


How Do you Know If you Are Dehydrated?

Unfortunately, many of us do not drink enough fluids daily. Yet, we know we cannot survive more than a few days without them. So, how do you know if you are dehydrated?

Signs of dehydration in adults include:

  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lightheaded
  • Nauseated
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps
  • You don’t pee as much
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dry tongue
  • Thirst

If dehydration is left untreated, it can become severe, leading to a medical emergency and further complications.

Children and infants may present differently than adults when experiencing dehydration. Some symptoms to look for in this population include:

  • Appearance: They do not look well
  • Irritable or tired
  • Decrease in urine output: not peeing as much or fewer wet diapers.
  • Rapid breathing
  • Faster heart rate
  • Dry mouth

When dehydration progresses in children, especially babies, it can happen quickly as their body surface is much less than an adult’s. You may see:

  • Pale or mottled skin
  • Cold and blotchy hands or feet
  • No tears when they cry
  • Darker-colored urine
  • Blotchy hands and feet

These are signs your child needs medical attention, especially if they have nausea, vomiting, high fever, or diarrhea.

Ways to Stay Hydrated: How to Know You’re Getting Enough Water

Determining if you are adequately hydrated involves more than just tracking your daily water intake. Each person has unique hydration needs influenced by lifestyle, activity level, health status, and age. While a standard guideline for healthy adults is to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, there are two additional indicators to help measure your hydration level:

  • Monitor urine color and frequency: urinating at least every two hours and having a clear to pale yellow urine color is a good sign.
  • Skin elasticity: Pinch the skin on the back of your hand for a few seconds- if it snaps back quickly, you are probably hydrated. If it takes time to return, you may be dehydrated, which is a good sign to drink more fluids.

Maintaining adequate hydration is essential for overall health and well-being. Be mindful of these indicators and make sure you drink enough fluids throughout the day.

How Healthcare Associates of Texas Can Help

At Healthcare Associates of Texas, we take pride in providing top-notch care to our patients. Proper hydration is essential for overall health and well-being — we understand that everyone’s needs differ.

Our team of health care professionals is well-versed in the importance of hydration and is here to support you. If you have any questions or issues about your hydration status or need assistance managing your health, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re devoted to helping you achieve optimal health and wellness.




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  6. Marshall, H., Gibson, O. R., Romer, L. M., Illidi, C., Hull, J. H., & Kippelen, P. (2021). Systemic but not local rehydration restores dehydration-induced changes in pulmonary function in healthy adults. Journal of Applied Physiology, 130(3), 517-527.
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  8. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (n.d.). Water. Retrieved from

The information featured in this site is general in nature. The site provides health information designed to complement your personal health management. It does not provide medical advice or health services and is not meant to replace professional advice or imply coverage of specific clinical services or products. The inclusion of links to other web sites does not imply any endorsement of the material on such websites.

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Posted in: Health Education