The Stages Of Dehydration Explained

Dehydration is a health condition that occurs when there is not enough water in your body. Because the human body is 55% to 78% water (via Cleveland Clinic), consuming enough water is one of the most important things we can do to ensure optimal health. But a surprising number of people in the United States suffer from dehydration, especially among older adults, according to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing. Dehydration can lead to grave health consequences, but it is easy to remedy before it becomes serious.

Cedars Sinai claims even mild dehydration can influence body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. The more dehydrated the body becomes, the more severe the symptoms, including weakness, confusion, cognitive impairment, and even death. However, dehydration is easily preventable in developed countries with abundant clean water supplies. And learning to recognize the signs of dehydration can help protect you from accidental dehydration.

How to recognize the signs of dehydration

According to the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), mild dehydration occurs when body fluid is depleted by just 3% in adolescents and 5% in infants. The National Health Service says warning signs of dehydration include feelings of thirst and darker-colored urine. These symptoms may be accompanied by fatigue, dry mouth, or dizziness. Babies could have cold, blotchy hands or feet and exhibit rapid breathing, in which case they should receive medical attention. 

At any age, the signs of severe dehydration include feeling overly fatigued, dizziness upon standing that doesn't subside, decreased urination, a weak or rapid pulse, or seizures, via the National Health Service. Cedars Sinai warns severe dehydration seriously threatens brain function and physical health and if left untreated, death can occur.

The Cleveland Clinic recommends hydrating by drinking plenty of water. For an easy home remedy for prevention, try adding a pinch of salt and a slice of lemon or lime to your water to encourage water absorption into the body. As dietician, Dr. Joanna McMillan tells the Sydney Morning Herald, "It is true that a little salt in water will increase the rate of absorption." However, you should seek medical attention if you suspect advanced moderate-stage dehydration, and get help immediately or call 911 in the case of severe dehydration.