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Dehydration - when your body needs more water

dehydration; thirst; fever; heat; heartbeat; urine; wee;


What is dehydration?

getting dehydrated is no fun at all!Dehydration (say dee-hi-dray-shun) happens when your body doesn't have enough water to keep it working properly.

Did you know that your body is mostly water? More than half of your body weight is water. Your body can't survive for more than a few hours without it - even a shorter time if you live in a hot country or the weather is very hot. This doesn't mean that your body is like a glass that you fill with water. Your feet would get pretty soggy wouldn't they? Our topic on Water will give you all the info about that.

  • You get water by drinking and from the food that you eat.
  • You lose water through
    • sweating from the pores in your skin
    • in urine (wee)
    • from your lungs when you breathe in and out
    • in your poo (bowel action).
  • If you are sick you could lose more water if you are vomiting (throwing up) or have lots of runny poo (diarrhoea (say dyer-ee- ar)).

What is dehydration like?

The signs of dehydration are:

  • Feeling unwell, weak and dizzy
  • Feeling really, really thirsty
  • Feeling very dry in your mouth and lips
  • When you don't need to go to the toilet as much as usual and you have a small amount of dark, strong smelling wee
  • Having a headache
  • Feeling that you want to sleep, even in the daytime.
  • Feeling all mixed up and not sure about what's happening to you.
    feeling tired and sleepy

Causes of dehydration

If people are well and can get a drink when they want to they will not get dehydrated.

Even if they can't get a drink for a few hours they won't get dehydrated. People do not get dehydrated when they are asleep and don't drink for many hours.

You can feel quite thirsty without being dehydrated. Your body has systems that control how much water is in your body, in your wee and in your poo.

However you might get dehydrated if you are quite sick or unable to have a drink for many hours.

  • exercising in the sun can cause dehydrationYou might be vomiting and have runny poo and be losing a lot of water that way.
  • You may not feel able to drink water or eat (maybe you have a very sore throat and it hurts to drink).
  • If you also have a fever (high temperature) you could be losing more water in your sweat - your body sweats more to try to cool your skin down.
  • If you are in a hot place where you lose lots of water through sweat and if you run around a lot and cannot have drinks you might get dehydrated.
  • Using muscles a lot makes a lot of heat in your body. If you are getting all red in the face and sweaty then you need to slow down, cool down and drink extra water.

If you are constipated (can't do a poo when you feel like you should be able to), drinking more water may help. Have a look at our topic 'Constipation - when you just can't go'.

What you can do

  • drink plenty of wateIf you are sick then sip water often to keep up the fluid levels in your body.
  • Iceblocks or ice cubes made of tap water may be more comfortable if you have a sore throat. Ask your mum, dad or caregiver whether you need to see the doctor.
  • Have extra drinks when you are hot or active.
  • Drink extra water while you are playing sport. Water is best, but fruit juice, soft drinks and cordials are ok. Avoid 'energy' drinks. Sports drinks are really for athletes rather than kids. If you are a young athlete in training your coach or trainer will help you stay hydrated.

If you do get really dehydrated and feel sick then you may need to go to your doctor or hospital. There you may need to have an intravenous (say in-tra-veen-us) drip to get fluid into your body quickly through your veins. It doesn't hurt and makes you feel better pretty quickly.

Babies, young children and old people are most at risk of getting dehydrated, so keep an eye on them in the hot weather.

Dr Kate says:

Dr Kate"Do you drink 8 glasses of water or other drinks a day? This is how much some experts say that adults need each day. Small kids need less water than this – 6 or 8 smaller drinks would be good. At least make sure that you drink water in the morning, at recess time, lunch, after you are running around and in the evening.

Fruit juice is okay but often it has a lot of sugar so only have one glass a day of juice mixed with water. Milk is good too. Water is the best drink you can have, so take your water bottle with you when you exercise, especially in summer, and keep your body happy and working well.

It has become fashionable to carry a water bottle everywhere so that you can have lots of little sips of water. This is not necessary. Your body is designed to have several larger drinks a day, not lots of little sips. Having a good drink every 2 hours or so is a healthy thing to do – you will not become dehydrated even if you sometimes feel a bit thirsty.

Remember, your body can manage well when you don't drink while you are asleep. Bodies are good at managing to let you know when you need a drink - the message is that you get thirsty."

Tap water is the best drink for strong teeth.

dehydrationTap water in South Australia has fluoride added to help keep teeth healthy. Since kids have started drinking more bottled water they have been getting many more holes in their teeth.

Tap water is the best drink for strong teeth.


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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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