The dehydration - A condition in which a person’s water content is at a dangerously low level. Water accounts for about 60 per cent of a man’s body weight and about 50 per cent of a woman’s. The total content of water (and mineral salts and other substances that are dissolved in the body’s fluids) must be kept within fairly narrow limits to enable the healthy functioning of cells and tissues.

Dehydration occurs due to inadequate intake of fluids or excessive fluid loss. The latter may occur as a result of severe or prolonged vomiting or diarrhoea, or in people who have poorly controlled diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus, and certain types of kidney failure. Children are particularly susceptible to dehydration due to diarrhoea.

The symptoms of severe dehydration are extreme thirst; dry lips and tongue; an increase in heart rate and breathing rate; dizziness; confusion; lethargy; and eventual coma. The skin looks dry and loses its elasticity. Any urine passed is small in quantity and dark-coloured. If there is also salt depletion (for example, due to heavy sweating), there may be headaches, cramps, and pallor.

Drinking bottled mineral water helps to maintain the intake of salts. In cases of persistent vomiting and diarrhoea, rehydration therapy is required; salt and glucose rehydration mixtures are available from chemists.

In severe cases of dehydration, fluids may be given intravenously, and the water/salt balance is carefully monitored by means of blood tests and is adjusted as necessary.


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