Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it takes in. Young children and babies are at greater risk than adults, but all children, teenagers and adults can become dehydrated if perspiring heavily from playing sport, exercising or energetic play without replacing fluids with regular water intake.
Signs and symptoms of dehydration include excessive thirst, headache, cramps, dizziness, dark-coloured or decreased output of urine, confusion, irritability, vomiting, diarrhoea, dry mouth and skin, low blood pressure, rapid pulse, irrational behaviour.
While severe dehydration requires urgent medical attention, mild-to-moderate symptoms can be treated quickly and effectively:
1. Reassure and rest the patient in a cool area.
2. Loosen restrictive clothing and raise their legs slightly.
3. If alert and conscious, replace lost fluids with frequent sips of cool water or ice chips. An electrolyte drink may be given, but do not give salt tablets or add salt to water. Rest the patient until well hydrated and recovered.
4. If there is no improvement or the patient's condition declines, call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance, place them in recovery position, check airways and breathing and prepare for CPR.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I seek medical assistance? Young children and babies are particularly susceptible to becoming dehydrated, often before any warning signs other than excessive thirst. Severe symptoms in any patient include extreme thirst, lethargy, pale face with sunken eyes, fast breathing with a rapid heart rate, irritability, drowsiness or confusion. Seek immediate medical assistance or call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance if severe dehydration symptoms are present.
Does dehydration only happen after exercising or excessively sweating without fluid replacement? Dehydration can also result from diarrhoea or vomiting due to fever or another illness where significant amounts of water and electrolytes are expelled from the body in a short amount of time. Dehydration can also be caused by increased urination due to undetected diabetes or certain medications.What first aid supplies do I need to treat dehydration? Slowly sipped water or electrolyte drinks are the best first aid for dehydration. If the patient is very hot, wrapped ice packs in the armpits, groin or neck area may be used to cool them down.