First Aid Management: Dehydration

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Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it gains fluid. The body is composed of approximately 50% to 70% water, thus it only makes sense that the body needs water to function. In the body, it is important that the cells, the most basic functional unit of the body, have more water entering the cell as opposed to leaving it. But in cases of dehydration, more water is leaving the cell than entering. Thus, when there is excessive loss of body fluids, particularly water, dehydration happens. Apart from this, electrolyte imbalance also occurs

Water is normally lost every day. It occurs in different forms, such as water vapor during exhalation and in liquid form in sweat, urine and stool. Apart from the water, salt is also lost but in much smaller amounts.

Causes of Dehydration

Anything that leads to excessive loss of body fluids can lead to dehydration. These include:

  • Food poisoning and other infections that lead to fever, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Prolonged exposure to the hot weather, especially when coupled with physical activity
  • Certain diseases, such as diabetes, which are associated with rapid loss of fluids
  • Skin injuries through loss of water by means of damaged skin, such as burns, mouth sores or other skin infections
  • Alcohol intoxication

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration

Mild to moderate cases of dehydration can show any of the following signs and symptoms. These include:

  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Dry throat
  • Thirst
  • Reduced urine output that is usually dark in color
    • For infants, lack of wet diapers for three hours
    • For older children, no urine output for eight hours
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Sleepiness

Severe cases of dehydration may lead to more intense signs and symptoms. Severe dehydration is life-threatening

  • Mouth, Mucus membranes and skin very dry
  • Extreme thirst
  • Little to no urine output – urine is dark yellow or amber in color
  • Absence of sweating
  • Fever
  • Rapid pulse
  • Rapid breathing
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Delirium
  • Loss of consciousness

First Aid Management for Dehydration

Dehydration caused by prolonged exposure to hot weather, or heat stroke, will have a different first aid management. But for the other causes of dehydration, the following tips can be done:

Give clear fluids, such as water, fruit juices and sports drinks to individuals suffering from dehydration
Give clear fluids, such as water, fruit juices and sports drinks to individuals suffering from dehydration
  • Give the individual two quarts of clear fluids, such as water, fruit juices and sports drinks every two to four hours. Do not give diuretics, such as sodas, caffeine and alcohol.
    • If dehydration is a result of diarrhea or vomiting, drink small amounts but more frequently.
    • In cases of excessive vomiting and watery diarrhea, drink diluted fruit juice or oral rehydration solutions because water dilutes the minerals in the body.
  • Take plenty of rest and do not engage in strenuous activity.
  • If there is fever, give appropriate first aid.

Learn how to properly manage dehydration by joining First Aid Courses. These First Aid Courses help treat the condition and avoid possible complications from developing.

Dehydration occurs when more fluid is lost than accumulated by the body. As a result, electrolyte imbalance occurs in the body.

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