Dehydration Symptoms And Signs You're Suffering, Plus How To Treat It

Natasha Hinde

Another week, another influx of scorching weather. While it’s great news for those looking to spend their summer holiday in the UK, there are risks attached to heatwaves and dehydration is one of the major factors.

Registered GP Dr Kenny Livingstone tells HuffPost UK he has received calls from “a lot more patients complaining of headaches, lethargy and tiredness” in the past month.

“It’s almost undoubtedly related to people not drinking enough fluids,” explains Dr Livingstone, who is chief medical officer of private home visit service ZoomDoc. “We’re just not used to these temperatures in the UK, so it has caught a lot of people off guard.”

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What is dehydration?

Dehydration is caused by not drinking enough water. As such, treatment often revolves around drinking more fluids - although in some instances this can be difficult, for example when a person has a vomiting bug.

Symptoms of dehydration:

:: Headache,

:: Feeling thirsty,

:: Dark yellow and strong smelling urine,

:: Feeling dizzy or lightheaded,

:: Tiredness,

:: Dry mouth, lips and eyes,

:: Sweating less than usual,

:: Urinating fewer than four times a day.

Dr Livingstone says children and the elderly are the biggest risk groups during heatwaves.

Children younger than six months old can get dehydrated very quickly, he adds. Symptoms in this age group include:

:: Drier nappies than normal (as they’re not urinating as much),

:: The soft spot on the top of the head (fontanelle) becoming quite sunken,

:: Crying but with very few tears. 

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What should you do if you’re dehydrated?

The general advice around banishing dehydration is taking sips of water, little and often, and gradually building up the amount you drink. It’s also worth eating foods that have a higher water content such as cold soup, ice lollies, jelly or watermelon.

For carers or parents of young children, it might help to spoon feed them water, according to NHS Choices

Fully breastfed babies don’t need any water until they’ve started eating solid foods as they will get all the hydration they need from breast milk. However, bottle-fed babies may need some extra water in hot weather.

For babies under six months, NHS Choices advises boiling then cooling water from the mains tap in your kitchen (as it’s not sterile straight from the tap). Water for babies over six months doesn’t need to be boiled.

People who are sick or experiencing diarrhoea will need an extra helping hand and should visit their local pharmacist for some oral rehydration sachets to replace essential salt, minerals and liquids lost from the body. Dr Livingstone also recommends drinking flat cola to replenish salt and sugar in the body.

When your urine returns to a pale clear colour, that’s a sure sign you’re on the mend.

When to seek urgent help

There are times when dehydration becomes a health threat and, as such, any of the below symptoms should warrant a trip to A&E (or calling 999) as you’ll need urgent treatment:

:: You feel unusually tired,

:: You’re confused and disorientated,

:: You feel dizzy when you stand up and it doesn’t go away,

:: You haven’t urinated for eight hours,

:: Your pulse is weak or rapid,

:: You’re having fits (seizures).