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Dehydration can turn dangerous quickly, especially in children and the elderly. Even though people are most susceptible during summer months, dehydration can happen at any time of the year, to anyone, and no matter the age.

What is dehydration?

Your body needs a certain amount of fluids to function normally. Dehydration happens when you use or lose more fluid than you take in. If you don’t replenish the fluids you lose, you will become dehydrated.

Severe diarrhea and vomiting are the two most common causes of dehydration in young children. Older adults, however, may have minor illnesses, conditions or take medications that increase their risk of dehydration.

Dehydration is not limited to the very young or very old. Anyone who doesn’t drink enough water — especially when exercising or being outdoors for long periods of time in hot weather — can become dehydrated.

Mild to moderate dehydration can be reversed by drinking more fluids, but severe dehydration requires immediate medical treatment.

Symptoms of dehydration

You may not know if you are dehydrated! In fact, many people don’t even feel thirsty until they already are dehydrated.

Symptoms may differ depending on age. Here are some signs to look for…

Infants and young children

  • Dry mouth and tongue
  • No tears when crying
  • No wet diapers for three hours
  • Sunken eyes, cheeks
  • Sunken soft spot on top of skull
  • Sluggishness or crankiness


  • Extreme thirst
  • Infrequent urination
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

When to seek treatment

  • Diarrhea that lasts for 24 hours or more
  • Behavior that is irritable or disoriented and you feel more sleepy or less active than usual
  • Can’t keep down fluids
  • If you suspect that you have heat exhaustion or heat stroke

Did you know? New England Urgent Care can treat dehydration and administer IV fluids, if needed.

Complications of dehydration

Dehydration can be a serious matter. If left untreated, it can lead to:

  • Heat cramps, heat exhaustion or potentially life-threatening heatstroke
  • Kidney problems
  • Hypovolemic shock also known as low blood volume. Which causes a drop in blood pressure and a drop in the amount of oxygen in your body.

Source: Mayo Clinic

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