Signs of Dehydration: Are You Getting Enough Water?

Staying hydrated is vital all year, but particularly in the heat of summer

The human body is made up of approximately 60% water. Staying hydrated is a vital, but often overlooked, aspect of health and wellness. Dehydration occurs when the body is losing more fluids than it’s taking in. The more active someone is, the more attentive they need to be to water (and electrolyte) consumption. Knowing the signs of dehydration offers an opportunity to hydrate, before symptoms become more severe.

Common Signs of Dehydration

Bad Breath, Dry Mouth

When we become dehydrated, our saliva production slows down, which can lead to bad breath. Dehydration is actually one of the leading causes of halitosis. Ample amounts of saliva create a less welcoming environment for bacteria, and help sustain healthy pH (alkaline to acid) balance. So, put down the mints, and grab the bottle!

Chapped Lips

Because lips are fairly susceptible to drying out, chapping can indicate a few issues, dehydration being one of the most common. Other causes include licking (which can either be the reason for, or consequence of, dry and cracking lips), vitamin deficiencies, or smoking. Increasing water intake can be done alongside of, and in conjunction with, other remedies such as using lip balm or exfoliation.

Constipation

Water consumption is an essential component of the digestive process. Hard or infrequent bowel movements typically result from stool spending extended periods of time in the colon. Hydration helps keep things moving along…

Dehydration is one of the most common causes of chronic constipation. The food you eat makes its way from your stomach to the large intestine, or colon. If you don’t have enough water in your body already, the large intestine soaks up water from your food waste.
This makes you have hard stools that are difficult to pass.

How Drinking Fluids Can Help You Manage Constipation“, WebMD

Dark Yellow Urine

The color of urine is on a continuum. It can be affected by food, vitamins, certain medications, or medical conditions. One of the most common causes of dark yellow urine is dehydration. When the body isn’t properly hydrated, the kidneys begin to store, rather than rid themselves of, water. This shift causes the urine to darken, and may create an odor. Close to completely clear urine, on the other hand, may be an indication of over-hydration.

Urine colour chart infographic

Infographic courtesy of Healthdirect Australia.

Fatigue, Exhaustion

Someone suffering from higher than normal levels of water loss, or lower than normal levels of water replenishment, will begin to feel fatigued. If you’re having a midday slump, even though you’ve eaten and had plenty of rest, you may be dehydrated.

Feeling Faint, Dizzy, or Lightheaded

Feeling faint, dizzy, or lightheaded may be the result of a blood pressure drop due to dehydration. Not increasing water consumption when it’s hot and humid, or during vigorous exercise, can leave someone feeling weak, shaky, or wobbly. If dehydration becomes severe enough, it could lead to a loss of consciousness.

Vasovagal syncope is often triggered by a combination of dehydration and upright posture. But it can also have an emotional trigger such as seeing blood (“fainting at the sight of blood”).

Syncope (Fainting)“, John Hopkins Medicine

Headaches

Although dehydration headaches feel different from person to person, many describe them as pulsing. They’re frequently compared to hangover headaches.

A pulsing headache might be a sign of dehydration.
A pulsing headache might be a sign of dehydration.

Drinking enough water does more than just prevent dehydration headaches – it can also prevent migraines. While we do not know exactly what causes a migraine, we do know that dehydration is a known trigger for migraine headaches. 

Is your headache caused by dehydration?“, The Pain Center

Lack of Sweat or Hot Flashes

These two signs of dehydration were consolidated because sweat regulates body temperature. When we cannot spare the fluid needed to sweat, we begin to heat up. A noticeable decrease in sweat when it’s humid, hot, or you’re engaged in intense cardiovascular exercise, may indicate you’ve become dehydrated. It’s advisable to increase water consumption prior to, during, and also following exercise, or when spending time outside, during the heat of the day, when it’s warmer.

Low Urine Frequency or Volume

Dehydration is one of the most common causes of significant reductions in urination. This decrease may result in fewer trips to the restroom (people typically urinate six or seven times per day, but “normal peeing” ranges from four to ten times). Another way a lack of hydration can impact urination is by decreasing volume, which may be noticeable in a single visit, or over the course of multiple sittings | standings.

Premature Aging of Skin

The skin, like the lips, can become dry when we’re not properly hydrated. It may flake, peal, or crack. Because dehydration can reduce the elasticity (turgor) of skin, one test of hydration is to pinch the skin on the top of your hand, hold it for a few seconds, and then let go. Hydrated skin will almost instantly return to its original form, dehydrated skin will linger and take longer to fall into place.

If a lack of hydration persists. The eyes may become sunken and dark circles and lines may appear.

When you think of dandruff, you think of itchy flaky skin on your scalp, often leaving evidence behind stuck in your hair. Itching and flaking are two of the most common signs of dry skin on your face as well. This can be an all-over issue, but is often most noticeable near and in the eyebrows.

Is Your Skin Showing Signs of Dehydration?, Associates MD

Rapid Heart Rate

As mentioned previously, when our fluid level plummets our blood pressure drops. This may lead to shallow, rapid, and/or heavy breathing. While this is happening, the person’s face may become flushed.

A lack of fluids in the body might also cause symptoms that mimic allergies or asthma. The body utilizes water to moisten nasal passages and bronchial tubes, as you dehydrate they become drier. Consequently, it becomes more difficult to breath. This problem can compound as rapid breathing brings in more air, further drying the nasal passage.

Common symptoms associated with dehydration and elevated histamine include asthma, allergies, acid reflux, tension headaches, constipation, irritable bowel, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine headaches and chronic pain in various regions of the body.

Can Dehydration Cause Asthma and Allergies?“, Dr. Jockers

Thirst

Many people wait until they feel thirsty to drink, but feeling thirst is actually one of the signs of dehydration. Although it is more subjective than some of the other indicators, it’s extremely important because thirst is often the first sign that someone notices. It can also provide motivation, and is likely to drive someone to drink (water).

Are You Shocked By How Many Signs of Dehydration You Have?

Perhaps you shouldn’t be… Studies conducted in the United States estimate that 75% of adults are drinking less water, on a regular basis, than is recommended for healthy levels of hydration. Put another way, three out of four people may be chronically dehydrated.

If Signs of Dehydration Persist…

If you’re experiencing multiple signs of dehydration, or persistent signs of dehydration (i.e. indicators that don’t improve as you increase daily water consumption), it may behoove you to have a conversation with your primary care provider. There are disorders related to water and/or sodium intake, and excretion, that could be contributing to the symptoms being experienced.

Cheers

Whether or not you’re showing signs of dehydration, let’s take a minute to toast water and its many health benefits!

Grab a cup from the tap or, if you prefer, a bottle. Throw in a slice of lemon, lime, orange, cucumber, or kiwi, and sip away!

Author profile

Hi! I write books and blogs about wellness and adopting healthy living habits. My first children's picture book, Gabby Makes a Friend, is available at Amazon. I’ve been teaching sociology courses at community colleges since. Beyond work, I'm the proud mother of two beautiful, adult children. I’m a recovering perfectionist, whose hobbies include meditation, cooking, hiking, and yoga.

24 thoughts on “Signs of Dehydration: Are You Getting Enough Water?

  1. It was interesting when you explained that thirst is one of the first signs of dehydration, so we shouldn’t wait until we feel it to drink water. I’ve been doing some reading about health and think a good place for me to start would be to stay hydrated. Maybe I’ll look for a hydration drip therapy service to use as a one-time kick start before starting the new practice of drinking before I’m thirsty.

    1. I set aside all of the water I’m planning to drink for the day. Then I pour it from that very large container into a more reasonable 26 oz reusable bottle. I try to divide them t fairly evenly throughout the day, up until 6:30 or 7. If I drink up until bedtime, I end up having to get up during the night…

  2. No reblog button, that’s a shame. I would have loved to have shared this on my blog.

    I first heard about the issue of dehydration on Coast to Coast AM of all places (during one of my insomnia bouts) by a doctor who was claiming that proper hydration would cure or prevent all kinds of issues.

    After forcing myself to drink alot of water as part of my spinal decompression treatments, I can vouch for what a huge difference it makes. Even that CTCAM doctor doesn’t seem so crazy anymore. 🙂

    1. That is a shame! We should put in for one! I started hydrating after being diagnosed with IBS. The first time I looked at a list of signs of dehydration, I had none of the ten listed. I thought, hmmm 🤔 maybe an issue… What a world of different a little extra H20 makes!

      1. Please do. I never cut and paste, only use the reblog button and make sure the original author gets well deserved credit for anything I reblog. This deserves a share. 🙂

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