Dehydration affects all populations in the world. The danger is all the more present when dehydration affects young children and the elderly. Moreover, these are the developing countries most affected. Diarrhea, vomiting, and dry mouth are all visible signs of dehydration.
Dehydration, what is it?
Definition of dehydration
Dehydration is not a “disease” strictly speaking, it is a physiological state with more or less important consequences. This physiological state then results from a substantial decrease in the fluid within the body. Dehydration can be due to malnutrition or severe diarrhea.
This liquid, in quantity lower than normal, in the case of a state of dehydration, consists essentially of water and mineral salts.
Dehydration can affect anyone, but special attention should be given to young children and the elderly.
The causes of dehydration
Diarrhea, the main consequence of dehydration, is caused by:
- lack of hygiene;
- malnutrition, especially with regard to “water-rich” foods;
- contact and/or hydration with contaminated water.
Bacteria can cause diarrhea, such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, or even E.Coli. But also viruses, such as Rotavirus. These living organisms responsible for a diarrheal state are easily transmitted from one individual to another, particularly by hand-carrying or by ingesting contaminated water or food.
People affected by dehydration
Dehydration is most widely present in developing countries. This fact is due to the lack of access to drinking water or even the absence of basic sanitation. The worldwide prevalence associated with diarrheal pathologies amounts to nearly 1.5 million children.
This state of dehydration can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or place of residence. Nevertheless, the elderly as well as children and infants are categories of people to be considered with more attention.
Indeed, with regard to the elderly, sometimes find it more difficult to hydrate regularly, especially in periods of high heat. As for children, in the period of growth, the consequences of dehydration are more serious than in adults. In this sense, promoting hydration in these categories of people is essential.
When diarrhea is not treated immediately, it can be dangerous. Indeed, the loss of water and mineral salts can have significant consequences on the functioning of the body (vital organs, muscles, brain, etc.), and all the more so in growing children or even in the elderly, whose body is weakened.
In order to avoid the aggravation of dehydration, it is important to continue consistent hydration, that is to say nearly 1.5 L of water per day.
Symptoms of Dehydration
Dehydration is apparent through certain specific signs, including:
- less need to urinate;
- the absence of tears;
- dry tongue, parched lips, and skin;
- “grayish” skin;
- a depression of the fontanelle (a soft part of the skull of the infant);
Diarrhea, and vomiting, are the most demonstrative signs.
Diarrhea, linked to a state of dehydration, is common in children and infants. In addition, they are generally scarce and of short duration. In any other case, it must be considered carefully, in order to avoid any more serious consequences.
Other symptoms can also accompany this diarrheal state: fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, or even abdominal cramps.
The presence of blood in the stool testifies to significant dehydration, this is the most alarming state.
Risk factors linked to dehydration
The risk factors for dehydration are, of course, insufficient recommended daily hydration (about 1.5 L of water per day). But also a state of malnutrition, consumption of food, and/or water contaminated by bacteria or viruses that can cause diarrhea.
Despite a lack of personal hydration, manual transport and the oral route are therefore the two main ways of transmitting the risk of diarrhea.
Treatments and prevention of dehydration
In order to limit any risk of bacterial or viral transmission, it is then strongly advised to adopt hygiene rules: wash food well, wash your hands well after going to the toilet, and do not drink water if it is not drinkable.
In addition, it is advisable to drink between 1.5 L and 2 L of water per day. This recommendation varies in particular according to individual physical and sporting practices, the presence of certain underlying pathologies, or even the seasonal period.
The disease is essentially and mainly treated by rehydration. In order to limit the aggravation of the losses in water and mineral salts, drinking and eating as normally as possible is then recommended.
In the case of dehydrated infants, there are then oral rehydration solutions, prescribed in the context of severe diarrhea. When these subside, it is advisable to refeed the child little by little, with infant formula or solid foods.
If the symptoms persist over time, then it is important to contact the doctor quickly. But also if blood is visible in the stool if the diarrhea is accompanied by fever and a body temperature above 38.5°C.
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