7 Ways to Prevent Dehydration

Ways to prevent dehydration

Verywell / Zackary Angeline

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You probably already know that drinking enough fluids every day is crucial for optimal health. Research has found that proper hydration plays a role in maintaining cognition, reducing the risk of kidney stones, and managing weight.

"It’s imperative to stay hydrated because water affects every system in the body," says Jay Woody, MD, FACEP, chief medical officer of Intuitive Health and a co-founder of Legacy ER & Urgent Care. "Our bodies rely on water to stay healthy and maximize mental and physical health."

Generally, medical professionals recommend drinking approximately 9 cups of water per day for women and 13 cups of water per day for men. That may seem like a lot at first, but if you don't drink enough on any given day—and if you lose more fluids than you're taking in—you're at risk of dehydration.

Plus, if you wait until you are thirsty to drink something, you may already be dehydrated, so it's important to drink water consistently throughout the day. Here's what to know about the signs of dehydration, its complications, and how to prevent getting dehydrated.

What Causes Dehydration?

When your body loses more fluids than you're taking in, you can become dehydrated. Some common causes of dehydration include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and excessive sweating.

You also can become dehydrated by simply not drinking enough fluids throughout the day. Some people either forget to drink liquids, especially water, while others deliberately do not drink enough in order to reduce the number of trips they make to the bathroom.

While limiting fluids can be tempting, especially when you are traveling or have trouble moving around, it is not good for your body or your mind. For optimal health and body function it is important to drink fluids throughout the day to keep your body optimally hydrated.

Signs of Dehydration

When you are dehydrated, your body has lost more fluids than it has taken in. And if you ignore your symptoms, do not drink more fluids, or neglect getting medical treatment when necessary, it can become a serious problem.

For this reason, it is important to recognize the signs of dehydration and start drinking right away. The most common signs of dehydration in adults include:

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness, weakness, and light-headedness
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry cough
  • High heart rate paired with low blood pressure
  • Loss of appetite
  • Flushed skin
  • Swollen feet
  • Muscle cramps
  • Heat intolerance
  • Chills
  • Constipation
  • Dark urine
  • Feeling cranky and anxious

When to Get Medical Attention

It's important to get immediate medical attention if you or a loved one has any of these symptoms:

  • A fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
  • Seizures
  • Slurred speech
  • Dizziness
  • Altered mental capacity and/or hallucinations
  • Fainting
  • Rapid pulse
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Rapid pulse

Dangers of Dehydration

Exactly how your body is affected depends on how dehydrated you are, Dr. Woody says. Mild symptoms, such as dark yellow urine or a headache, can typically be resolved by simply drinking more water.

More severe signs of dehydration, including dizziness and mental confusion, require medical attention, he says. Often, people who are at this level of dehydration will need to be treated with intravenous fluids in the hospital.

Being dehydrated has a big impact on the brain, Dr. Woody explains. It impairs your cognitive performance, so you might have trouble with memory, concentrating, or making decisions. It can also impact psychomotor skills—such as coordination and speed—while decreasing muscle strength.

Dehydration also is bad for your heart, which has to work harder when there's too little water in your blood. And it can have a major impact on your kidneys. Severe dehydration can lead to kidney failure, seizures, heat exhaustion, stroke, coma, and death.

7 Ways to Prevent Dehydration

Dehydration can be a common problem, especially among mature adults. In fact, some research indicates that dehydration occurs in 17% to 28% of older adults and is a frequent cause of hospital admission. For this reason, it is extremely important to take steps to prevent dehydration. Here are seven things you can do now to prevent dehydration.

Drink Throughout the Day

Don't wait until you're thirsty to start chugging from your water bottle. Drink at regular intervals throughout the day, especially if you're outside in the sun or engaging in vigorous physical activity. Keep track of how much you drink so that you don't accidentally forget to consume enough water.

Some apps are designed to help you stay hydrated. Try downloading Hydro Coach or WaterMinder. Both applications will send you reminders to keep drinking throughout the day.

"The best way to continue staying hydrated is to set goals to drink a certain amount of water a day," Dr. Woody says.

Check Your Pee

It might seem a little unnatural to keep an eye on your stream, but doing so can help you head off dehydration. If your urine is clear, pale, or straw-colored, you're properly hydrated. But if it is darker, that's an excellent sign that you need to keep drinking.

Be Careful in the Sun

If you're outside during the hottest time of day, find a shady spot, and wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. You also should avoid staying out in the sun for multiple hours in a row. If you're feeling bad after being outside, it is important to find a cool place and start hydrating.

"Drink plenty of liquids and find a cool place that will help lower your body temperature," Dr. Woody suggests. "A cool shower or soak can also help reduce the body’s temperature."

Drink Electrolyte Beverages

Electrolytes—which are important minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, phosphorus, and magnesium—can be lost when you sweat. To help compensate for that loss, some people drink sports drinks or other beverages enhanced with electrolytes.

The best electrolyte drinks taste good and are packed with nutrients with minimal sugar. Fortunately, there are a number of options available if you're on a tight budget.

Use Electrolyte Powders

If you're at risk of becoming dehydrated—for example, if you're running a marathon in the heat—a healthcare provider may recommend you use electrolyte supplements. These are typically powders or tablets that you can drop into regular water to make it extra healthful.

Ultima Replenisher Electrolyte Hydration Powder, for example, is packed with electrolytes and also contains 110% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C. It's easy to mix a packet into your water bottle when you're on the go.

Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine

Alcohol and caffeinated beverages can both make dehydration worse. Alcohol, for example, is a diuretic, which means it cause your body to remove fluids from the blood. If you are drinking alcohol, make sure to pair it with plenty of water to help prevent dehydration.

Eat Hydrating Foods

Drinking fluids isn't the only way you can stay hydrated. Lots of foods—especially fruits and vegetables—have high water content and can contribute to your daily hydration needs.

Watermelon, cantaloupe, and strawberries are among the fruits with the highest water content. Other top contenders include raspberries, plums, peaches, apples, pears, cucumbers, and grapes.

A Word From Verywell

Dehydration—which occurs when you do not get enough fluids—can be serious if it is not treated quickly. At worst, it can cause death. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to prevent dehydration such as drinking enough water throughout the day, eating foods that are high in water content, and including electrolyte beverages when needed.

Make sure you are doing what you can to stay hydrated and familiarize yourself with the signs of dehydration. The sooner you address the first signs of dehydration the sooner you will be feeling better. And, if you experience severe dehydration symptoms such as fainting, low blood pressure, or confusion, seek medical attention right away.

7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Angela Haupt
Angela Haupt is a freelance journalist specializing in health, wellness, and nutrition. She was previously the Managing Editor of Health at U.S. News & World Report. Angela is a regular contributor with The Washington Post and has written for publications such as Women’s Health magazine, USA Today, and Newsday.