Time to Read

8 minutes

Key Topics
  • Who's most at risk?
  • Prevention
  • Symptoms
  • Treatment

This bank holiday weekend, most of us will be taking advantage of the extra day off work and jumping at the opportunity to soak up the summer sun with our families.  

Who's most at risk?

Babies, children and the elderly are more at risk of dehydration so it’s crucial that you check up on your more vulnerable loved ones and keep them hydrated, especially in hot weather. You’re also more at risk of becoming dehydrated if you suffer from diabetes, take certain medications, have been sweating, or if you’ve been vomiting or having diarrhoea. For more on who is more at risk, and when to treat dehydration, visit the NHS website. 

If you’re playing or working in the sun or in hot climate, it’s important to pay attention to how much fluid you’re losing from urine and sweat. When your water intake is overtaken by how much you’re losing, you run the risk of becoming dehydrated. 

How to prevent it

Avoiding or cutting back on alcoholic and caffeinated beverages and increasing your intake of water is key to staying hydrated in hot weather. When we sweat, our bodies lose water so avoiding liquids with a diuretic effect – meaning they may cause the need to urinate – like alcohol or caffeine, means that we can retain the fluids that we take in much more effectively. Aside from water, fruit and vegetables are also a great way to up your water intake as they have high water content and make for refreshing snacks in hot weather.

How to spot the symptoms

Most of us can notice that we are dehydrated, as we will feel thirsty, tired and may notice a headache coming on. However, it can be harder to keep track of our loved ones who are vulnerable to dehydration: the elderly, babies and young children. 

Children suffering from mild to moderate dehydration might be observed to:  

  • Seem less energetic 
  • Urinate and pass stool less (unless the dehydration is a result of diarrhoea) 
  • Have fewer or no tears when crying 
  • Infants or toddlers may have a soft, sunken spot on their head (sunken fontanelle 

In the elderly, the most accurate way to diagnose dehydration is with a blood test, as testing urine for its concentration isn’t as accurate in older patients. Although it isn’t a clinically proven method, if an elderly person seems to perk up shortly after consuming some liquid, it could suggest they had been mildly dehydrated. Other signs of dehydration can include: 

  • Dizziness 
  • Faintness  
  • Confusion  
  • High heart rate  
  • Less frequent urination 

How to treat it

The Rehydration Project has the below guide for the amount of ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution) needed in the first 4-6 hours of treatment for a mildly dehydrated person, based on body weight: 

  • Up to 11 pounds: 200-400 ml 
  • 11-22 pounds: 400-00 ml 
  • 22-33 pounds: 600-800 ml 
  • 33-44 pounds: 800-1000 ml 
  • 44-66 pounds: 1000-1500 ml 
  • 66-88 pounds: 1500-2000 ml 
  • 88+ pounds: 2000-4000 ml 

Preventative measures are ideal, but if you should find yourself or a vulnerable loved one in a state of mild to moderate dehydration there are things you can do to rectify it. If someone is in a state of severe dehydration (extreme dizziness, lethargy and not passing urine for 8 hours), you should immediately seek the help of a doctor. 

For mild to moderate dehydration, it is important to immediately begin consuming fluids, avoiding coffee and tea in large amounts. If you’re dehydrated because of vomiting, it can be better to frequently drink small amounts of water instead of trying to consume lots all at once. 

Small children and infants shouldn’t be given water as their main source or dehydration. If breast or bottle-fed, it’s beneficial to keep feeding the child the amount of fluid they would consume ordinarily. If on solids, foods such as mashed banana, mashed potato, applesauce and toast (AKA the BRAT diet) might are recommended often by paediatricians until the child is back to normal. Children should avoid fizzy sodas, sugary drinks and sports drink like Gatorade, as unlike ORS (Oral Rehydration Solutions) they don’t have the levels of sodium, chloride, potassium and glucose to re-balance electrolyte levels. Children who are old enough to drink independently should be encouraged to drink as often and as much as possible, and to rest – even for a while after they start to feel better. 

If it’s an older person experiencing dehydration, you similarly should encourage them to drink as much and as often as possible. You can do this by offering to make them drinks regularly, and by offering drinks that the person seems to prefer. Older adults may not drink a large quantity in a single sitting, so making sure they drink frequently is key to overcoming dehydration. Be aware also that there could be underlying issues that make a person reluctant to drink often, such as incontinency or mobility issues that prevent them frequently rising to make drinks. It’s best to make frequent drinking as much a part of their daily routine as possible, and remove any barriers they may have to this. 

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