Prevention and Wellness

Answers to Common Dehydration Questions

Ben Mishler, of Premier Health Sports Medicine, answers frequently asked questions about dehydration.

What are the signs and symptoms of dehydration?

Dehydration is when the body doesn’t have the amount of water and fluid that it should, and ranges from mild to severe, according to the according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). Severe dehydration is life threatening, according to the NIH.

According to the American College of Sports MedicineOff Site Icon (AAFP), the symptoms of hydration include:

  • Little or no urine, or urine that is darker than usual
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness or lightheaded feeling
  • Dry mouth
  • Extreme thirst
  • Headache
  • No tears when crying
  • Sleepiness or fatigue

The best treatment for dehydration is prevention; drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your body hydrated, according to the AAFP.

For more information about the symptoms of dehydration, talk to your doctor.

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What is a healthy diet that aids in staying hydrated?

Choose foods with a high water content to avoid dehydration, according to the According to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP), fruits and vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, and watermelon contain a lot of water. Soup broth is also a choice for avoiding dehydration, states the AAFP.

Concerning beverages, it’s important to stick to drinking water to stay properly hydrated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC). Avoid sugary beverages, especially soft drinks, as they contain caffeine which contributes to dehydration, the CDC states.

Ask your doctor about good nutrition for avoiding dehydration.

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How much fluid is needed to stay hydrated before and during exercise?

The amount of water one takes in during exercise depends on the individual, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP). Body weight, amount of sweat during exertion, the heat and humidity in your environment, and the level of exercise, the AAFP states.

According to the American College of Sports MedicineOff Site Icon, a proper measure of hydration is to drink one ounce of water per pound of body weight. There are three standard phases of hydration during exercise, the ACSM states:

  • Before exercise – drink 16-20 oz. of water four hours before exercise, and 8-12 oz. about 10-15 minutes before exercise
  • During exercise – drink 3-8 oz. of water ever 15-20 minutes, never exceeding one quart per hour
  • After exercise – after estimating fluid losses by checking body weight, drink 20-24 oz. of water for every pound lost

Thirst is an indication that your body is already dehydrating, so it’s important to keeping drinking water even when you’re not thirsty, according to the ACSM.

For more information about hydration during exercise, talk to your doctor.

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What are the dangers of dehydration?

Water is essential to good health and body function, so it’s important to stay hydrated, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP). The body uses water to regulate temperature, expel waste, and lubricate joints, according to the AAFP.

When the body doesn’t have an ample water supply, it can affect vital functions and lead to complications, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). Some extreme, but likely, results of severe dehydration include seizures, permanent brain damage, and death.

To learn more about complications of dehydration, talk to your doctor.

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How can athletes monitor if they are properly hydrated?

Athletes can begin to monitor their hydration by establishing a baseline for their own body, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP). They may start by weighing themselves before and after their workout, taking note of the amount of water consumed during exertion, the ACSM states.

According to the American College of Sports MedicineOff Site Icon (ACSM), calculating the percentage of one’s body weight change can help him or her identify their appropriate hydration level:

% Body Weight Change

Well Hydrated: -1 to +1%
Minimal Dehydration: -1 to -3%
Significant Dehydration: -3 to -5%
Serious Dehydration: > - 5%

Ask your doctor about ways to monitor your hydration during exercise.

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Source: Ben Mishler, AT, Premier Health Sports Medicine

Content Updated: July 17, 2018

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