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What to Do if You’re Severely Dehydrated


You’ve probably heard the old adage that most of your body is made up of water. But what happens when it’s not? When you lose too much water from your system due to heat exposure, fever, diarrhea, vomiting or other illnesses and conditions, it can cause further serious problems.

Mild Dehydration

Dehydration can present symptoms like:

  • Decreased urine output
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry skin
  • Few or no tears
  • Headache
  • Increased thirst
  • Low volume of urine and darker color than normal
  • Tiredness or sleepiness

For mild dehydration, you can often treat the condition at home.

If the dehydration is due to vomiting, start by sipping small amounts of water. Drinking too fast can cause you to bring it all back up again, so go slowly to avoid another trip to the bathroom. You can also try sucking on ice chips or popsicles.

In addition to losing water, dehydration depletes the body of electrolytes. For this reason, it’s a good idea to drink something with carbohydrates and electrolytes rather than just plain water, as long as it is well tolerated. Most sports drinks are a good choice, as well as options like Pedialyte, which are made specifically for dehydration. We also have a recipe for a homemade electrolyte drink made from items you may already have in your pantry. Many sports drinks contain a large amount of sugar; mix your sports drink with water in a 50/50 mix.  

If the dehydration is due to heat exposure, you’ll want to do everything you can to help yourself (or your patient) cool down. This includes removing any unnecessary layers of clothing, getting to an air conditioned area, or if no air conditioning is available, try luke warm mist from a spray bottle or using a wet towel to induce evaporation cooling. Avoid cooling down too quickly with methods like ice packs or ice cold water as these can actually cause further dehydration.

For infants or babies, do not administer electrolyte drinks or fruit juices unless recommended to do so by a qualified medical practitioner. Stick to breast milk or formula, and seek medical help if you don’t see improvement.  

Severe Dehydration

If left unchecked, severe dehydration can cause the following:

  • Cold and blotchy hands and feet
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness that affects ability to stand or walk normally
  • Drops in blood pressure drops when standing up after lying down
  • Severely decreased urine output with deep yellow or amber color or no urine at all
  • Fever
  • Lethargy, confusion, or coma
  • Poor skin elasticity (skin slowly returns to its normal position when pinched)
  • Rapid resting heart rate
  • Seizure
  • Shock

Man requesting care on DispatchHealth app

At this point you’ll need to seek medical intervention. One of the best options is to call DispatchHealth to come to the rescue. Their emergency care providers are able to evaluate patients for dehydration and administer IV fluids to more rapidly hydrate patients in a safe and beneficial way. And best of all, there’s no rush to the emergency room, no waiting room and no hassle. The team will come to you, wherever you happen to be, so you can relax on the couch while you wait to be seen.

So the next time you experience dehydration, whether due to heat, illness or exhaustion, get a house call from a medical team with the knowledge and experience to treat you in the comfort of your own home.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]


DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies. 

Sources referenced in this article: 

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354092
  2. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/qa/how-can-a-dehydrated-person-cool-off


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