Parched? Here are the tell-tale signs of dehydration to watch out for
Can you tell the difference between a bit of early morning dry mouth and full-blown dehydration?
Most guys can’t. That’s why we’re constantly living in a state of perpetual dehydration, characterized by achy muscles, headaches, and even trouble concentrating.
The symptoms of dehydration are complicated, as they often mimic other problems, like fatigue or stress. So, it’s not always possible to know if you’re achy because of a big workout, or you’re suffering from dehydration muscle cramps.
However, a lack of water in your system is something that all men should be taking more seriously.
Without enough moisture in your system, you’re going to struggling with everything from walking, to digesting food.
Fortunately, Blitz’d is here to help.
Here’s your ultimate guide to the signs of dehydration.
What causes dehydration anyway?
Water is a pretty big deal.
You might prefer a refreshing ice-cold pint when you’re feeling thirsty, but water’s the only thing that’s going to keep your body ticking along at peak performance.
Suffering from just 1 or 2% dehydration can be enough to cause some serious side effects, including dehydration headache, and trouble concentrating.
Unfortunately, as important as water is, it’s easy for us human beings to lose it.
Everything from throwing up after a bad night out, to heat exposure causes us to purge water like a balloon with a hole in it.
While anyone can suffer from the signs of dehydration, your chances are much larger if:
You have ailments like diabetes
You can’t find access to safe drinking water
You have burns or mouth sores
Your skin has severe diseases or infections
You’re ill (with vomiting or diarrhoea)
You’re exposed to way too much heat
You’re exercising vigorously
You’re eating a low-sodium diet
If you found that last one a little confusing, it’s worth noting that having the right amount of sodium in your blood helps with retaining water. Turns out that supplements are more valuablethan you thought.
Even drinking alcohol can increase your chances of experiencing the symptoms of dehydration. That’s because alcohol reduces the amount of arginine vasopressin in your system, which is an anti-diuretic hormone. Basically, it means you pee more, and dehydrate faster.
The stages of dehydration: From mild to major
The unfortunate truth is that most of us exist in a state of constant dehydration.
According to a study published in 2015, nearly 55% of all adolescents aren’t properly hydrated. Since you can be even more active and exposed to stress as an adult, your chances of dehydration are even greater.
The good news?
There are different levels of dehydration.
While, generally, it’s not a good idea to be dehydrated at all, you can cope a lot better in the mild stages of dehydration, than the severe stages.
Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
Mild dehydration: Mild dehydration is what happens when you lose up to 5-6% of your typical body fluid. At this stage, you start to suffer from a dehydration headache, fatigue, and dizziness.
Moderate dehydration: Symptoms at this stage include low blood pressure, fast pulse, dry skin, and reduced urine output.
Severe dehydration: When more than 10% of your body fluid is missing, you’re in real trouble. You’ll be low on electrolytes, which means you’re more likely to pass out. You can even die of really serious dehydration.
Common symptoms of dehydration
Since we don’t want anyone dropping dead of dehydration any time soon, let’s take a closer look at the symptoms of dehydration.
Often, the signs of dehydration start with the way you think and act. Your brain is over 70% water. Research into men in their 20s often finds that dehydration can rapidly slow brain function, affecting memory, concentration, and alertness.
Other studies have found that even slight dehydration can lead to greater risk of driving mistakes. This includes slowed reaction times and drifting across lanes.
Besides making you less of a Brainiac, the signs of dehydration can also include:
High blood pressure: Water loss can lower your blood volume and affect your blood pressure. Drinking water helps to balance your BP.
Tiredness: Medical research indicates that dehydration makes you feel tired even when you’re well-rested. Men in dehydration studies often feel lethargic, and tired.
Headaches: Dehydration headache is a common problem for a lot of men. Just being 1.36% dehydrated can cause headaches.
Nausea: Dehydration can also cause you to feel sick – which is a bit of an issue if sickness is causing your dehydration to begin with.
Fainting: Severe stages of dehydration can often lead to fainting and light-headedness. Your body needs water to stay up and active.
Heart effects: Dehydration can also cause a quicker than usual heartbeat. This is a symptom that people regularly mistake for stress.
Mood: Studies into both men and women find that dehydration makes individuals feel more tense, anxious, or depressed.
Constipation: Yep, as well as making it harder to pee, the signs of dehydration can also include trouble pooping too.
How to tell if you’re dehydrated: Other signs of dehydration
If, like most guys, you only start to think that you should probably be drinking more water when you’re feeling thirsty – you could be leaving it too late.
By the time you’re craving a nice cold glass of water, you’re already suffering from the mid-range levels of dehydration. What’s more, it’s worth noting that when you’re experiencing dehydration, you’re not just dealing with lost water, but a loss in electrolytes like potassium and salt too.
The more essential nutrients your body loses, the worse your symptoms of dehydration become. You could even suffer from bad breath as a possible side-effect. After all, saliva helps to eliminate bacteria in your mouth, but if you’re not drinking enough, you won’t be producing enough of it either.
Other signs to watch out for include:
Dry or flushed skin: You don’t have to be super sweaty to be dehydrated. A lot of people with limited water in their system suffer from very dry or flushed skin. You might notice roughness or flaking in your skin too. Not very attractive.
Food cravings: When you’re dehydrated, it can be hard for organs like the liver to release glucose for energy. That means that you often get cravings for sweet food. Signs of a serious sugar tooth could mean you need to drink more water.
Poor performance: Not getting much out of your workout routines or time in the office? It’s probably because you’re dehydrated. See how much better you perform with a glass of water in your system.
So, how do you know if you are dehydrated, once and for all?
You could start by using two fingers to pinch the skin on the back of your hand. If your skin doesn’t spring back to its normal position immediately, you’re probably in need of a drink.
Another major sign? Dark pee. If you’re peeing something the colour of bad beer, rather than yellowish water, you’re in trouble.
How to treat dehydration
So, if you are dehydrated, how do you deal with the problem.
Well, the easiest option is to drink more. (Duh).
There aren’t any hard and fast rules about how much you have to drink each day to stay hydrated. The amount of water you need will depend on your activity levels and other things. However, the most common guidelines are about 1 ounce of fluid for every pound of body weight.
Usually, your requirements will even out to about 3.7 litres per day.
To boost your chances of avoiding the signs of dehydration, make it easy to keep your water levels high. Keep a bottle of water handy at all times and add some chunks of fresh fruit if you don’t like the taste of regular water. Heck, you can even try sugar-free herbal teas if you prefer.
Additionally, think about swapping dry snacks with refreshing treats instead, like frozen fruit, yogurt, or smoothies. Getting extra produce into your meals (fruits and veggies), will give you higher amounts of liquid in your diet, as well as a hearty dose of essential vitamins and minerals.
Avoid that pesky dehydration headache
Usually, the symptoms of dehydration can disappear quite quickly – when you drink enough water.
However, there’s also a risk that the outcomes of not drinking enough water will become very severe, the longer you leave it to change your routine.
Severe symptoms, like hallucinations, low blood pressure, or fainting could indicate that you’re dealing with some serious stages of dehydration, and therefore need medical attention immediately.
Remember, over time; ongoing dehydration doesn’t just cause muscle cramps and headaches; it can also cause muscle damage, kidney stones, and pretty dangerous levels of constipation too.
The best way to prevent dehydration is to simply drink more fluids. Figure out how much you need – and remember to account for other factors, like hot days and workout routines.
At the same time, avoid things that cause you to get dehydrated faster – like caffeinated drinks and alcohol.
The more water you get into your system, the better off you’re going to be.