Dehydration is when you lose more water than you take in. This makes it harder for your body to do some basic jobs, like keep your temperature steady and clear out waste. You lose water in your sweat, tears, and every time you go to the bathroom. Even breathing takes a little out of you.
How Lack of Water Affects You
More than half your body weight comes from water. So, if your levels are off, it can show up in a surprising number of ways. Mild dehydration can make you feel tired, give you a headache, and affect your mood and focus.
Is Thirst a Sign I’m Dehydrated?
Yes, but no need to panic. By the time you get the urge to quench your thirst, you’re already a little dehydrated. As long as you pay attention and drink water when your body tells you to, it’s not a problem. For older adults, the lag might be a little longer – so it can help to make a habit of drinking water.
Who’s It Likely to Happen To?
You can lose over a gallon of water a day if you have diarrhea and throw up. Babies and kids are more likely than adults to get dehydrated because they’re smaller. Older adults need to be on the lookout because your sense of thirst gets duller with age. Kidney disease and some health conditions can make your body get parched. Pregnant or breastfeeding women need to drink more than usual as well.
Symptoms in Young Children
Babies and little kids can’t always tell you what’s going on with their bodies. Look for a dry tongue, no tears when crying, no wet diapers for 3 hours, and more fussiness than normal. When it’s more severe, their mouths will be dry and sticky, and their eyes and cheeks may look sunken. They also may breathe fast and have a fast or weak pulse.
Symptoms in Older Kids and Adults
You might be thirsty, and your mouth might feel dry or sticky. You won’t pee very often — under 4 times a day. When you do go, there may not be much pee, and it’ll be dark or have a strong smell. You may feel dizzy or lightheaded, and you may pass out. As it gets worse, your thirst cranks up. Your breathing and heart rate may be faster than normal. You can overheat, and you might feel confused or cranky.
Should I Drink 8 Cups a Day?
This old rule has zero science behind it. But it’s fine as a rough guide. The amount you need to drink depends on how active you are, where you live, and your overall health. If you’re not sure you’re drinking enough, check the color of your pee. Clear or pale yellow means you’re all set. Darker means you need to drink up.
Tips for Staying Hydrated
If you just can’t remember to drink enough water, look for ways to build it into your day. Make water your go-to drink. Have a glass at and between each meal. Or set a reminder on your phone to have a glass every hour. Some people find that carrying a water bottle does the trick. And if you’re hankering for a snack, have water instead. Sometimes, our bodies confuse thirst for hunger.