Dehydration results from excessive loss or not enough replacement of fluids from the body.
To work properly, the body requires a certain amount of water and other elements, called electrolytes. Drinking and eating help to replace fluids and electrolytes that have been lost through the body's functions. Fluids are normally lost through sweat, urine, bowel movements, and breathing. If a lot of fluids are lost and not replaced, dehydration can occur.
Dehydration is more common in children younger than 2 years and people aged 65 years or older, especially those with chronic illness.
Factors that may increase the risk of dehydration include:
Symptoms vary depending on the degree of dehydration. Symptoms may include:
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Dehydration can be extremely serious and life threatening. It may require immediate medical care.
The doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
The doctor will test bodily fluids. This can be done with:
Therapy aims to rehydrate the body, replace lost electrolytes, and prevent complications. If there is an underlying condition, the doctor will treat that as well.
Treatment may include:
If there is minimal or moderate dehydration, the doctor may have fluids replaced fluids by mouth. The following may be needed:
IV fluids will be given to rapidly replace fluids in cases of severe dehydration.
The doctor may recommend the following medication:
If you are diagnosed with dehydration, follow your doctor's instructions.
To prevent dehydration:
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Dehydration and hypovolemia in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T904582/Dehydration-and-hypovolemia-in-adults. Updated October 5, 2015. Accessed September 29, 2016.
Dehydration and hypovolemia in infants and children. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T904583/Dehydration-and-hypovolemia-in-infants-and-children. Updated May 9, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2016.
Rehydration therapy in children. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900144/Rehydration-therapy-in-children. Updated May 9, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2016.
Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardMichael Woods, MD, FAAP Last Updated: 12/12/2013