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Dehydration in Adults

Intro

Call your doctor if the dehydrated person experiences any of the following:

  • Increased or constant vomiting for more than a day
  • Fever over 101°F
  • diarrhea for more than 2 days
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased urine production
  • Confusion
  • Weakness

Take the person to the hospital's emergency department if these situations occur:

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Self-Care at Home

Try to get people who are dehydrated dehydrated (even those who have been vomiting) to take in fluids in the following ways:

  • Sip small amounts of water.
  • Drink carbohydrate/electrolyte-containing drinks. Good choices are sports drinks such as Gatorade or prepared replacement solutions (Pedialyte is one example).
  • Suck on popsicles made from juices and sports drinks.
  • Suck on ice chips.
  • Sip through a straw (works well for someone who has had jaw surgery or mouth sores).

Try to cool the person, if there has been heat exposure or if the person has an elevated temperature, in the following ways:

  • Remove any excess clothing and loosen other clothing.
  • Air-conditioned areas are best for helping return body temperatures to normal and break the heat exposure cycle.
  • If air conditioning is not available, increase cooling by evaporation by placing the person near fans or in the shade, if outside. Place a wet towel around the person.
  • If available, use a spray bottle or misters to spray luke-warm water on exposed skin surfaces to help with cooling by evaporation.
  • Avoid exposing skin to excessive cold, such as ice packs or ice water. This can cause the blood vessels in the skin to constrict and will decrease rather than increase heat loss. Exposure to excessive cold can also cause shivering, which will increase body temperature—the opposite effect you're trying to achieve.
Follow-up
  • Take prescribed medications as directed.
  • Continue to keep yourself well hydrated with plenty of water or sports drinks.
  • Watch for signs of dehydration in yourself and others.

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Prevention

The foremost treatment for dehydration is prevention. Anticipate the need for increased fluid intake.

  • Plan ahead and take extra water to all outdoor events and work where increased sweating, activity, and heat stress will increase fluid losses. Encourage athletes and outdoor workers to replace fluids at a rate that equals the loss.
  • Avoid exercise and exposure during high heat index days. Listen to weather forecasts for high heat stress days, and plan events that must occur outside during times when temperatures are cooler.
  • Ensure that older people and infants and children have adequate drinking water or fluids available and assist them as necessary. Make sure that any incapacitated or impaired person is encouraged to drink and provided with adequate fluids.
  • Avoid alcohol consumption, especially when it is very hot, because alcohol increases water loss and impairs your ability to sense early signs associated with dehydration.
  • Wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothing if you must be outdoors when it is hot outside. Carry a personal fan or mister to cool yourself.
  • Break up your exposure to hot temperatures. Find air-conditioned or shady areas and allow yourself to cool between exposures. Taking someone into a cooled area for even a couple of hours each day will help prevent the cumulative effects of high heat exposure.
Outlook

When dehydration is treated and the underlying cause identified, you will recover normally.
dehydration caused by heat exposure, too much exercise, or decreased water intake is generally easy to manage, and outcome is excellent.

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