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Dehydration: when the body needs more water

The importance of water for human life and health, and its balance throughout the body


Water: an essential element of the body

Water is essential for life and health. It provides a medium for cell metabolic reactions, helps carry nutrients throughout the body, is important for eliminating toxins and waste products from the body and last, but not least, plays a key role in regulating body temperature.

 Most of the human body is made up of water, which accounts for about 50-60% of the body weight. Because body fat contains a relatively small amount of water compared to other tissues like blood and muscles, and because women have proportionally more fat than men, the body water percentage is lower in women (50-55%) than in men (60%). Obese people and elderly people have a lower percentage of body water as well.


In normal conditions, body water content is tightly controlled and maintained at a constant value through a fine balance between water intake and water losses. The human body absorbs water (both drinking water and water contained in food) through the digestive tract, while loses it mainly through urination, sweating and respiration. In normal conditions these two process (water absorption and water excretion) are well balanced and the body is said to be well-hydrated.

Excessive water loss and dehydration

However in certain pathological conditions, there can occur abnormal excessive water losses, leading to dehydration. Dehydration is not a medical condition by itself. Rather, it is the result of other underlying disorders or circumstances. In fact it usually occurs as a result of severe diarrhoea, prolonged vomiting and profuse sweating (due to fever, hot weather or excessive exercise). Mild and moderate degrees of dehydration can be usually corrected by providing the body with an adequate amount of drinking water. However severe dehydration is an emergency and always requires immediate medical attention.


Although dehydration is a common condition that may affect everyone, there are some groups of people that are more likely to develop it. These include infants and children (which are the most often affected by diarrhoea), older people, people with chronic illnesses, as well as endurance athletes. For these people prevention by drinking plenty of liquids every day is more important than ever. 

Symptoms of dehydration

Signs and symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration include thirst, dry mouth, decreased urination, sleepiness, muscle weakness and headache. Severe dehydration is characterized by a worsening of these symptoms, as well as by other possible emergency symptoms, such as low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, delirium or unconsciousness. In addition severe dehydration can lead to life-threatening complications like seizures, shock, kidney failure and coma. This is why severe dehydration must be treated promptly.


The goal of the treatment of dehydration is to replace the lost water, as well as the electrolytes (salts) lost with water. For the treatment of mild to moderate dehydration it is enough to get the patient to drink adequate amount of fluids (added with adequate amounts of mineral salts, if needed) until dehydration is resolved. On the contrary, severe dehydration requires* an immediate water and electrolyte replacement therapy, that must be undertaken intravenously as soon as possible in a hospital emergency room.


Appropriate International health insurance plans generally cover the costs of emergency medical care required by severely dehydrated patients.

 If you would like to protect yourself or your close family from medical condition that may happen you may acquire a comprehensive Health Insurance.


 International Health Cover is an global  Medical Insurance advisor. We maintain excellent relationship with most International medical insurance carriers. We  can guide you in your search for a medical insurance and provide you with free personalized  advice over a range of International Health Insurance plans.

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*Always seek professional medical advise from a qualified doctor before undergoing any treatment.