Dehydration means your body does not have as much water and fluids as it should. Dehydration can be caused by losing too much fluid, not drinking enough water or fluids, or both. Vomiting and diarrhea are common causes.
Infants and children are more susceptible to dehydration than adults because of their smaller body weights and higher turnover of water and electrolytes. The elderly and those with illnesses are also at higher risk.
Dehydration is classified as mild, moderate, or severe based on how much of the body’s fluid is lost or not replenished. When severe, dehydration is a life-threatening emergency.
Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Your body may lose too much fluids from:
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Excessive urine output, such as with uncontrolled diabetes or diuretic use
- Excessive sweating (for example, from exercise)
You might not drink enough fluids because of:
- Loss of appetite due to illness
- Sore throat or mouth sores
Dehydration in sick children is often a combination of both — refusing to eat or drink anything while also losing fluid from vomiting, diarrhea, or fever.
Pictures & Images
A decrease in skin turgor is indicated when the skin (on the back of the hand for an adult or on the abdomen for a child) is pulled up for a few seconds and does not return to its original state. A decrease in skin turgor is a late sign of dehydration.
Review Date : 8/8/2009
Reviewed By : Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.