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Dehydration – Causes, Symptoms, Treatments

Dehydration affects all populations in the world. The danger is even greater when dehydration concerns young children and the elderly. Moreover, these are the most affected developing countries. Diarrhea, vomiting, dry mouth are all visible signs of dehydration.

Dehydration, what is it?

Definition of dehydration

Dehydration is not a “disease” per se, it is a physiological condition with more or less important consequences. This physiological state then results from a consequent decrease of liquid within the body. Dehydration may be due to malnutrition or severe diarrhea.

This liquid, in a quantity less than normal, in the case of a state of dehydration, consists essentially of water and mineral salts.

Dehydration can affect everyone, but special attention should be paid to young children as well as to the elderly.

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Causes of dehydration

Diarrhea, the main consequence of dehydration, is caused by:

  • a lack of hygiene;
  • malnutrition, particularly with regard to foods “rich in water”;
  • contact and / or hydration with contaminated water.

Bacteria can cause diarrhea, such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella or E. Coli. But also viruses, like Rotavirus. These living organisms responsible for a diarheic state, are easily transmitted from one individual to another, particularly by manuportage or by ingestion of water or contaminated food.

People affected by dehydration

Dehydration is most prevalent in developing countries. This is due to the lack of access to drinking water or the lack of basic sanitation. The global prevalence associated with diarrheal diseases is nearly 1.5 million children.

This state of dehydration can affect everyone, regardless of age, gender or place of residence. Nevertheless, older people as well as children and infants are categories of people to consider with greater attention. In fact, with regard to the elderly, it is sometimes more difficult for them to hydrate regularly, especially during periods of extreme heat. For children, during a growing period, the consequences of dehydration are more serious than in adults. In this sense, promoting hydration among these categories of people is essential.

When diarrhea is not managed immediately, it can be dangerous. Indeed, the loss of water and minerals can have significant consequences in the functioning of the body (vital organs, muscles, brain, etc.), and especially in the growing child or in the elderly, whose body is weakened.

To avoid aggravation of dehydration, it is important to continue a significant hydration, that is to say nearly 1.5 L of water per day.

The symptoms of dehydration

Dehydration is similar to some specific signs, including:

  • less need to urinate
  • the absence of tears;
  • dry tongue, parched lips and skin;
  • a “grayish” skin
  • a depression of the fontanelle (soft part of the skull of the infant);

Diarrhea and vomiting are the most demonstrative signs.

The diarrhea linked to a state of dehydration are common in children and infants. In addition, they are generally scanty and short-lived. In any other case, it must be considered carefully, to avoid any more serious consequences.

Other symptoms may also accompany this diarrhea state: fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach upset or abdominal cramps .

The presence of blood in the stool shows significant dehydration, this is the most alarming condition.

Risk factors related to dehydration

The risk factors for dehydration are, of course, the insufficiency of recommended daily hydration (approximately 1.5 L of water per day). But also a state of malnutrition, consumption of food and / or water contaminated by bacteria or viruses that can cause diarrhea.

Despite a lack of personal hydration, manuportage and the oral route are therefore the two main routes of transmission of diarrheal risk.

Treatments and prevention of dehydration

In order to limit any risk of bacterial or viral transmission, it is therefore highly recommended to adopt hygiene rules: wash the food thoroughly, wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet, and do not drink the water if it is not drinkable.

In addition, it is advisable to drink between 1.5 L and 2 L of water per day. This recommendation varies in particular according to individual physical and sports practices, the presence of certain underlying pathologies or the seasonal period.

The disease is treated mainly and primarily by rehydration. In order to limit worsening of water and mineral losses, drinking and eating as normally as possible is recommended.

In the case of dehydrated infants, there are then oral rehydration solutions, prescribed in the context of important diarrhea. When these fade, it is advisable to feed the child gradually, with formula or solid foods.

If symptoms persist over time, then it is important to contact the doctor promptly. But also if blood is visible in the stool, if the diarrhea is accompanied by fever and a body temperature above 38.5 ° C.

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