Dehydration: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Dehydration happens when your body loses too much fluid. This might happen when you do not drink enough water or you lose large amounts of fluids from your body because of diarrhea, vomiting, or sweating. Severe dehydration can be life-threatening.

Water and minerals called electrolytes help put your body fluids back in balance. Learn the early signs of fluid loss, and drink more fluids to prevent dehydration.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Choose water and other clear liquids until you feel better. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • If you do not feel like eating or drinking, try taking small sips of water, sports drinks, or other rehydration drinks.
  • Get plenty of rest.

To prevent dehydration

  • Add more fluids to your diet and daily routine, unless your doctor has told you not to.
  • During hot weather, drink more fluids. Drink even more fluids if you exercise a lot. Stay away from drinks with alcohol.
  • Watch for the symptoms of dehydration. These include:
    • A dry, sticky mouth.
    • Not much urine.
    • Dry and sunken eyes.
    • Feeling very tired.
  • Learn what problems can lead to dehydration. These include:
    • Diarrhea, fever, and vomiting.
    • Any illness with a fever, such as pneumonia or the flu.
    • Activities that cause heavy sweating, such as endurance races and heavy outdoor work in hot or humid weather.
    • Certain medicines, such as cold and allergy pills (antihistamines), pills that remove water from the body (diuretics), and laxatives.
    • Certain diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, and heart or kidney disease.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are confused and cannot think clearly.
  • You are dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have signs of needing more fluids. You have sunken eyes, a dry mouth, and you pass only a little urine.
  • You cannot keep fluids down.
  • You have diarrhea that lasts for more than a few days.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You are not making tears.
  • Your skin is very dry and sags slowly back into place after you pinch it.
  • Your mouth and eyes are very dry.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.