What are the symptoms of dehydration?

Symptoms of dehydration vary between individuals depending on the underlying cause. Dehydration symptoms can be acute and appear relatively suddenly, such as during or after an illness involving repeated vomiting and diarrhea. Dehydration can also be ongoing and chronic, such as when a person does not drink enough fluids because of a fear of incontinence (loss of bladder control).

Some people, especially the elderly, may be unaware that they have symptoms of dehydration because they may not notice the symptoms or may attribute the symptoms to other conditions and factors, such as migraine headache or dry winter weather.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Dry lips and tongue

  • Dry skin

  • Mild headache

  • Reduced or absent urination
  • Thirst

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

Moderate to severe dehydration can be serious and life threatening without a swift diagnosis and treatment. Dehydration can also be a symptom of very serious underlying conditions, such as type 1 diabetes or kidney failure. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of the following symptoms or a combination of these symptoms:

  • Change in consciousness or alertness, such as unresponsiveness and lethargy

  • Chest pain or discomfort, or palpitations

  • Confusion

  • Dizziness

  • Inability of an infant to feed and respond normally

  • Lack of tears, especially in a crying infant

  • Muscle cramps and weakness

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Not urinating or urine that is very dark yellow, brown, or tea colored

  • Seizure

  • Sunken eyes

  • Sunken fontanel (an infant’s soft spot on the top of the head)

  • Weak or limp body posture in an infant


What is dehydration?

Dehydration is an abnormal condition in which the body's cells are deprived of an adequate amount of water. Water makes up about 70% of the muscles, organs and tissues in the body and is crucial to many of the body's processes.

Dehydration negatively affects important bodily functions, including toxin elimination, delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the cells of the body, energy p... Read more about dehydrationintroduction


What causes dehydration?

Dehydration can be caused by not drinking enough water and fluids. Dehydration can also be the result of conditions that cause the body to lose too much water, such as excessive diarrhea, serious burns, fever, and high elevation. Dehydration is a symptom of a wide variety of underlying diseases, disorders and conditions, su... Read more about dehydrationcauses


How is dehydration treated?

The first step in treating dehydration is prevention. For healthy adults, this includes drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. Water needs will be greater for certain people, such as athletes or people who live at high altitudes or in hot, dry climates. Athletes may benefit from drinking a solution, such as Gatorade, that is fortified with the electrolytes that are lost through swea... Read more about dehydrationtreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Metabolic System