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Dehydration

Definition

Dehydration occurs when your body does not have as much water and fluids as it should.

Dehydration can be mild, moderate, or severe, based on how much of your body's fluid is lost or not replaced. Severe dehydration is a life-threatening emergency.

Causes

You can become dehydrated if you lose too much fluid, don't drink enough water or fluids, or both.

Your body may lose a lot of fluid from:

You might not drink enough fluids because:

Older adults and people with certain diseases, such as diabetes, are also at higher risk for dehydration.

Symptoms

Signs of mild to moderate dehydration:

Signs of severe dehydration:

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will look for these signs of dehydration:

Your doctor may do lab tests:

Treatment

To treat dehydration:

For more severe dehydration or heat emergency, you may need to stay in a hospital and receive fluid through a vein (IV). Your health care provider will also treat the cause of the dehydration.

Dehydration caused by a stomach virus should get better on its own after a few days.

Outlook (Prognosis)

If you notice signs of dehydration and treat it quickly, you should recover completely.

Possible Complications

If untreated, severe dehydration may cause:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

You should call 911 if:

Prevention

References

Chen L. Infectious diarrheal diseases and dehydration. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 171.

Greenbaum LA. Deficit therapy. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 54.

Santillanes G. Claudius I. Rehydration Techniques in Infants and Children. In: Roberts: Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2013:chap 19.


Review Date: 8/22/2013
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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