Dehydration is a condition wherein the body is losing fluids fast, in the form of water and electrolytes, and little or no amount is being replenished. As it occurs, the different cells all throughout the body are also losing important fluids resulting to poor physical and mental performance. While this condition can occur anywhere, it is common in industrial workplaces where people are exposed to high levels of heat and are engaged in high-output physical activities.
If dehydration occurs, it should be treated as soon as possible, or it could escalate to several serious complications, including the following:
This condition is a direct result of getting dehydrated and being exposed to heat. Heat injury happens when body’s core temperature rises rapidly due to its inability to cool down – the fact that the body won’t be able to perspire due to dehydration. The severity of this complication ranges from simple muscle cramps to serious heat exhaustion. It can also result to a potentially life-threatening heatstroke.
Hypernatraemia (opposite of Hyponatremia)
This condition occurs when there is an elevated level of sodium in the blood. Generally, this is not caused by an excess amount of sodium in the body, but due to the low level of free water – which is caused by dehydration. Without proper treatment and with continuous rise of sodium level (or can also be due to continuous loss of water), this can further result to a coma.
According to HowStuffWorks, “Electrolytes are important because they are what your cells (especially nerve, heart, muscle) use to maintain voltages across their cell membranes and to carry electrical impulses (nerve impulses, muscle contractions) across themselves and to other cells”. When the body is dehydrated, electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, are also lost together with water. Without these substances, electrical signals can be interrupted or disordered which can cause the contraction of involuntary muscles. If brain cells or nerves are affected, loss of consciousness can be possible.
Hypovolemic Shock (Low Blood Level)
This serious complication is also known as low blood volume shock. Based on the name itself, it is a condition wherein the amount of circulating blood in the body drops. With this shortage, the heart won’t be able to properly pump blood throughout the body, which cause a subsequent drop on both blood pressure and the amount of oxygen in the body. Initial symptoms include agitation, confusion, decrease urine output and rapid breathing. A severe hypovolemic shock may result to unconsciousness and even death.
The kidneys are among the most important organs of the human body. One of their main functions is to regulate the amount of water and electrolytes in the circulating blood. Kidney failure happens when the organs are no longer able to effectively perform this function – which can be caused by dehydration along with other factors.
This condition is not a direct complication during dehydration. Instead, it occurs after being dehydrated. As fluids are taken in after experiencing dehydration, the body tries to absorb too much water. This can cause the cells to swell and, in other cases, rupture. While this condition may not be life-threatening in other parts of the body, it can result into coma or death if brain cells are affected.
As medical experts say, prevention is better than cure. This goes the same with dehydration – it can be avoided, including the possible complications. If you are always engaged in an extensive physical activity, make sure to take several breaks in intervals. You should also stay hydrated by drinking electrolyte-formulated hydration beverages whenever you feel thirsty.