Dehydration: symptoms, causes and remedies


Water in the Human Body

The amount of water present in the human organism reaches very high values, so much so that it constitutes between 50 and 80% of body weight; these two extremes concern, respectively, the elderly and children, while in adults the water levels are around 60% of body weight (they are slightly higher in men and athletes, while they are slightly lower in women and obese people).
Water, therefore, is the most important constituent of our body and it is well known that without an external supply we can only survive for a few days.


Dehydration: What is it?

The dehydration is the lack of water in the body, a deficiency which may be due to insufficient dietary intake and/or excessive losses (profuse sweating and diarrhoea, repeated vomiting, burns, bedsores, polypnoea, taking diuretics, laxatives or water particularly low in salts, high-protein diet, diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus, massive salt consumption).

Dehydration becomes morbid when the loss exceeds 5-6% of body weight.

In basal physiological conditions (rest) and at room temperature (18-20°), water losses are less than 1 ml/min.
With physical activity and the increase in external temperature, these losses, mainly due to sweating, they can reach 15-25 ml/min.

Although the body is capable of limiting – even considerably – water losses, we must never forget theimportance of water in human nutrition. It is not uncommon for people to combine a reduced intake of liquids with a diet low in vegetables (consisting of around 90% water) and high in dehydrating drinks (coffee, alcohol, cola, etc.), with inevitable suffering of the entire organism.

Body water is present in three different compartments:

  • Intracellular: represents 40-50% of the body weight and is very important for the normal carrying out of the metabolic processes of the cells;
  • Intravascolare: represents 7% of body weight and is the main component of blood plasma;
  • Extracellular: it constitutes 17-20% of body weight, is found in the spaces between one cell and another and allows the exchange of substances between the blood of the capillaries and the cells.


Types of Dehydration

It is possible to distinguish three types of dehydration: hypertonic, isotonic and hypotonic.

Hypertonic dehydration

Hypertonic dehydration is characterized by increased plasma sodium levels (> 145 mmol/L) and hyperosmolarity; it is the typical consequence of one profuse sweating and the consequent drop in plasma volume (loss of water in excess of sodium, because sweat is hypotonic, as we will see better later).

Isotonic dehydration

Usually, isotonic dehydration follows the vomit o alla diarrhea (loss of water and electrolytes, especially sodium, in balanced proportions).

Hypotonic dehydration

Hypotonic dehydration is characterized by a decrease in plasma sodium levels (iponatremia) and for one reduction in osmolarity;
Hypotonic dehydration is the typical consequence ofabuse of diuretics or a rehydration with waters low in sodium (be careful, in summer, combining low-sodium diets with the consumption of water with a low fixed residue can be dangerous: salt is not an absolute enemy; a moderate intake of it is correct, but not its complete abstinence).
It is no coincidence, therefore, that many people report still being thirsty despite drinking a lot of water low in salts.


Dehydration: Symptoms

Il sense of thirst it is the most characteristic symptom of dehydration. However, it is important to point out that, in many circumstances, this manifestation occurs when dehydration is already at a very advanced stage.

To know more:
Dehydration: Symptoms

Dehydration: Typical symptoms in adults

In adult humans, dehydration typically manifests itself with:

Dehydration: Typical symptoms in children

In infants and children, dehydration presents with:

  • Dry mouth and tongue;
  • Absence of tears when crying;
  • Dry diaper for more than three hours (indicates infrequent urination);
  • Sunken eyes;
  • Listlessness and irritability.

To know more:
Dehydration in Children

Insights on Dehydration

  1. Drinks against dehydration
  2. Dehydration: Causes and Symptoms
  3. Remedies for Dehydration


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