Symptoms and Signs of Dehydration in Adults

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 7/29/2022

Doctor's Notes on Dehydration in Adults

Dehydration is a state of fluid deficit, or loss, in the body that occurs whenever more fluid is lost than is taken in. Fluid can be lost from the body through bleedingsweatingvomiting, urination, or diarrhea

Dehydration can be caused by any illness that causes: 

  • diarrhea or vomiting, 
  • excessive sweating
  • fever, which can cause the body to lose more water than usual,
  • injury that causes bleeding, or 
  • simply not taking in enough fluid to meet the body's demands. 

Symptoms of dehydration may be mild or severe. 

Symptoms associated with mild to moderate dehydration include:

Symptoms of severe dehydration include: 

  • rapid breathing, 
  • extremely dry skin
  • rapid heartbeat, 
  • sleepiness, 
  • confusion, 
  • dizziness
  • fainting
  • sunken eyes, and 
  • not urinating. 

Severe dehydration is a medical emergency.

What Is the Treatment for Dehydration?

Treatment for dehydration involves restoring both lost fluid and electrolytes to the body. The exact treatment depends on the severity of the condition and the age of the affected person. Treatment may include:

  • Sipping water in mild cases
  • Oral rehydration solutions designed for infants and young children
  • Sports drinks in cases in which dehydration is caused by strenuous exercise or extreme heat
  • Intravenous administration of fluid and electrolytes by emergency medical personnel in severe cases

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.