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 sweating.

Once dehydration develops, prompt recognition and treatment generally results in a good outcome and minimizes the chances of developing serious complications. Treatment generally involves a multifaceted plan that addresses the underlying or associated cause, such as vomiting or athletic overtraining, while safely rehydrating the patient. Treatment plans are individualized depending on the cause, the presence of other diseases, your age, and other factors.

Treatment of mild dehydration

Mild dehydration can often be cured by drinking fluids in small amounts at frequent intervals. For infants and children who have vomiting or diarrhea, an oral rehydrating solution, such as Pedialyte, is often recommended at the onset of vomiting or diarrhea. Any drink or fluid that contains caffeine, such as coffee or soda, should be avoided. Caffeine can make dehydration worse by causing the body to lose more water, resulting in increased urination.

Treatment of moderate to severe dehydration

Moderate to severe dehydration generally requires hospitalization and in some cases, intensive care. Intravenous fluids are administered and electrolyte replacement may also be necessary. Electrolytes and other important parameters, such as vital signs, are frequently or continuously monitored. For life-threatening cases that include such complications as kidney failure and hypovolemic shock, life-support measures may be necessary.

What are the possible complications of dehydration?

Complications associated with dehydration can be progressive and vary depending on the underlying cause. Because dehydration can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. It is important to contact your health care provider when you experience moderate to severe dehydration. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important to follow the treatment plan you and your health care practitioner design specifically for you to lower your risk of potential complications including:

  • Brain damage

  • Cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms)

  • Coma

  • Electrolyte imbalances

  • Kidney failure

  • Seizure

  • Shock


  1. Dehydration. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
  2. Dehydration. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH.
  3. What is Dehydration?
  4. Tierney LM Jr., Saint S, Whooley MA (Eds.) Current Essentials of Medicine (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011.

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 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 b... Read more about dehydrationsymptoms


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

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