Dehydration occurs when your body loses too much fluid due to vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, fever and certain medications that can cause you to urinate large amounts. This condition can range from an easily treated mild form to a life-threatening condition. According to the Mayo Clinic, those more prone to dehydration include young children, older adults and people with chronic illnesses. You can take certain at-home steps to determine if you or someone you know is dehydrated.
Ask the person if he is thirsty. A dry mouth and thirst are symptoms of dehydration.
Assess the amount and color of urine produced by the person. Someone with dehydration may have dark-yellow or amber-colored urine and may urinate only a little or not at all for eight hours or more. Infants with dehydration may have less than six wet diapers a day.
Take the person’s blood pressure and pulse. Symptoms of dehydration are a lower-than-normal blood pressure and a higher-than-normal pulse.
Gently pinch a portion of the person’s skin on the hand, lower arm or abdomen, forming a fold between your thumb and forefinger. Let go after a few seconds and see if the skin flattens out quickly to a normal position or if it retains the pinched shape while slowly returning to normal. If the skin slowly returns to normal, this can indicate dehydration.
Look at the person’s face and assess if her eyes appear sunken, which can indicate severe dehydration.
Assess the person for other signs of dehydration, including sleepiness, few or no tears when crying, muscle weakness, headache, dizziness and light-headedness. Children may also be less active than usual.
Try to prevent dehydration by drinking more fluids when you are at risk for this condition. The National Institutes of Health recommends a daily intake of six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. According to the Mayo Clinic, a good indication of hydration is the production of lots of clear or light-colored urine.
Severe dehydration requires emergency medical attention. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of severe dehydration include extreme thirst, irritability, confusion, very dry mouth, lack of sweating, little or no urination, sunken eyes, shriveled and dry skin, poor skin turgor, low blood pressure, fast heartbeat, fever and unconsciousness. Additional symptoms may be noticed in infants and children, including fussiness or sleepiness. You may also notice that the soft spots on the top of an infant's head appear sunken.