7 Ways to Prevent Dehydration

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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."

According to The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, women should consume about 2.7 liters of water per day, while men should aim for 3.7 liters per day. 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're thirsty, 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
  • Sweating a lot, such as during vigorous activity
  • Having a fever
  • Not drinking enough fluids

Signs of Dehydration

The most common signs of dehydration in adults include:

  • Headache
  • Experiencing delirium or confusion
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness, weakness, and light-headedness
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry cough
  • A 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

It's best to consult a health care practitioner if you have these symptoms:

  • A fever of 103 Fahrenheit or higher
  • Seizures
  • Slurred speech, dizziness, altered mental capacity, fainting, and/or hallucinations
  • Rapid pulse
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Rapid pulse

The Dangers of Dehydration

Exactly how your body is affected depends on how dehydrated you are, 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, Woody 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, Woody says. 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 is bad for your heart, which has to work harder when there's too little water in your blood and 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

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, for example; both 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," 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's 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. Avoiding staying out in the sun for multiple hours in a row. If you're feeling bad after being outside, "drink plenty of liquids and find a cool place that will help lower your body temperature," Woody says. "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, and many are available even 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—your health care practitioner 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 percent 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: raspberries, plums, peaches, apples, pears, cucumbers, and grapes.

A Word From Verywell

Dehydration, which occurs when you don't get enough fluids, can be serious if it's not treated quickly. At worst, it can cause death. However, there are many ways to prevent it, including drinking electrolyte beverages and taking steps to drink enough water throughout the day.

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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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