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Water Works

By Susan Peck, MSN, APN

Water Works

Have you had enough to drink today? Are you feeling sluggish, lightheaded or have a headache? Are you struggling with constipation? If so, you may be dehydrated.

Fluid Check

Your body needs adequate fluids to carry out normal functions. So, how much water should we drink every day? This is a topic of debate. According to the Institute of Medicine and the Mayo Clinic, a good rule of thumb is 9 cups of fluid daily for women. Caffeine robs you of hydration because it can cause you to lose fluids, so your morning coffee won’t count! Keep your fluid intake simple with water, flavored water, or decaffeinated tea. Remember that you may require more than 9 cups with illness or strenuous exercise.

Dealing with Dehydration

Dehydration happens when you lose more fluids than you are drinking. You probably already know the most basic way to tell if you’re drinking enough: Your urine will be light or clear in color. Don’t trust your thirst as a sign—it’s usually not a good indicator until you’re really dehydrated, and it’s especially not reliable in young children or the elderly.
Rather, says the Mayo Clinic, look for these signs of dehydration:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth or dry skin
  • Decreased urine output
  • Dark or concentrated urine

After not drinking enough fluids, diarrhea and vomiting are the most common causes of dehydration. Fever also causes dehydration, especially high fever. Excessive sweating and increased urination can also put you at risk. Living higher than 8,000 feet in elevation can also make you more susceptible to dehydration.

Serious Dehydration

Left unchecked, dehydration can lead to serious consequences, including low blood volume and a drop in blood pressure, what experts call hypovolemic shock. Dehydration can also lead to kidney failure, seizures due to electrolyte imbalance, and even coma or death. In severe cases, it’s possible to lose large amounts of fluids and electrolytes in a very short time. Infants, young children and the elderly are more at risk than others for the effects of dehydration.

If You or Your Child is Dehydrated

  • Rehydrate with water or other drinks that contain electrolytes
  • Avoid milk, sodas, caffeinated beverages or fruit juices as these don’t replenish your fluids and may make symptoms worse
  • Seek treatment if you can’t keep any liquids down
  • Nurse your baby often if she is sick to keep her hydrated

Dehydration in Pregnancy

Kate Middleton put the spotlight on a rare and risky form of severe nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy: Hyperemesis Gravidarum. While 90% of pregnant women experience morning sickness, which can cause vomiting, only 2% experience HG, which is so severe medical intervention is required.

Susan Peck, MSN, APN, is a women’s health nurse practitioner in a busy OB/GYN Practice in New Jersey.


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