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Side effects of dehydration

Dehydration and heat stroke are related by both being caused by excess exposure to heat and both can be life threatening if not treated on time.

Dehydration may come from too much exposure to heat or as a side effect of diarrhea, vomiting or fever. A person normally loses amounts of water through sweating, urine and the stool, and that water gets replaced by the ingestion of fluid and food that contains water. Dehydration causes the loss of water and essential body salts. Sometimes it can be caused by drugs. In any case, dehydration must be treated immediately.

Dehydration is easily recognized by thirst, reduced urination, dry skin, fatigue, dizziness, dry mouth and an increased heart rate and difficulty breathing. In children it may include fever, irritability, absence of tears and sunken abdomen, eyes or cheeks.

In its early form it can be treated with home treatments according to instructions given by a physician. Mild dehydration can be treated by drinking fluids, especially various sports drinks because they are good at restoring salt balance and electrolytes as well. Moderate and severe dehydration might require hospitalization and intravenous fluids.  

To avoid dehydration, one should drink lots of fluids when being exposed to the sun for longer periods of time in order to take in more fluid than the amount that gets lost. Physical activities can be planned so that they take place during cooler parts of the day. Pedialyte and similar solutions can be used in maintaining the balance of electrolytes.

Heat stroke is a condition in which a person does not sweat enough to lower body temperature caused by extreme exposure to the sun, and is life-threatening if not treated urgently. Sometimes the natural cooling system in the body cannot sweat out enough water in high temperatures due to the excess exposure to heat, which causes the heat stroke. The symptoms of a heat stroke are similar to those of dehydration although they are more severe and include high body temperature, seizure, loss of consciousness and hallucinations.

A person that has suffered a heat stroke is in great danger of permanent damage or even death and should be taken indoors immediately. Once the clothes have been removed, cool water should be gently applied to the skin in order to stimulate sweating.

The person should be exposed to a fan or some kind of artificial ventilation afterward.

Ice packs can be applied to the armpits and the groin, and the person needs to rest in a cool area with their feet elevated. Intravenous fluids are required in most cases. Precautions that protect from heat stroke are mostly the same as those used for dehydration.

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