Dehydration

Dehydration means your body loses more fluids than you take in. This can affect your body but in most cases it’s nothing serious.

Babies, children and the elderly are more at risk of dehydration.

Check if you’re dehydrated

Symptoms of dehydration in adults and children include:

  • feeling thirsty
  • dark yellow and strong smelling pee
  • feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • feeling tired
  • dry mouth, lips and eyes
  • peeing little and less than 4 times a day

If you have diabetes or alcoholism you can dehydrate much more easily.

How you can treat dehydration yourself

Drink fluids when you feel any dehydration symptoms. Keep taking small sips. You can use a spoon to make it easier for your child to swallow the fluids.

When you’re dehydrated your body also loses salt and sugar. To help restore sugar and salt levels you can drink:

  • water
  • fruit juice or squash mixed with water
  • salty things like soup

Make sure you give your child a mix of these things so they can get back the sugars, salts or minerals they have lost.

Your pharmacist can help with dehydration

You can buy special sachets from a pharmacy. They’re called oral rehydration solutions and you mix them with water. They contain salt, sugar and minerals that your body loses when you’re not drinking enough.

Ask your pharmacist which ones are right for you or your child.

See a GP if your symptoms don’t improve with treatment.

Call 999 or go to A&E if:

  • you’re feeling unusually tired
  • you’re confused and disorientated
  • any dizziness when you stand up doesn’t go away
  • you haven’t peed for 8 hours
  • your pulse is weak or rapid
  • you have fits (seizures)

These can be signs of serious dehydration which needs urgent treatment.

How to prevent dehydration

Drink enough during the day so that your pee is a pale clear colour.

Drink when you feel thirsty or when there is a higher risk of dehydrating. For example, if you’re vomiting, sweating or you have diarrhoea.

Carers: making sure someone drinks enough

Sometimes people you care for don’t have a sense of how much they’re drinking.

To help them:

  • make sure they drink during meal times
  • make drinking a social thing like ‘having a cup of tea’
  • offer them food with a high water content - for example, soups, ice cream, jellies or fruits like melon

Babies with dehydration

Take your baby to the GP urgently or go to A&E if they:

  • seem drowsy
  • breathe fast
  • have fewer wet nappies
  • have few or no tears when they cry
  • have a sunken soft spot (fontanelle) on their head
  • have a dry mouth
  • have dark yellow pee
  • have cold and blotchy-looking hands and feet

Your baby should get plenty of fluids. GPs usually advise:

Do

  • carry on breastfeeding or using formula, try to give small amounts more often than usual
  • for babies on formula or solid foods - give them small sips of extra water
  • give regular small sips of rehydration solution to replace lost fluids, salts and sugars - ask your pharmacist to recommend one

Don’t

  • dilute formula
  • give babies fruit juice, it makes things like diarrhoea or vomiting worse

Call 111

If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.