How to Avoid Dehydration When Vomiting

Up to 60% of the human body is composed of water, and we know that water is vital to health and life. However, certain situations affect the body’s ability to obtain or retain the proper amount of fluid. At that point, the risk of dehydration increases. Dehydration is a low level of water in the body, often caused by diarrhea, vomiting, fever, increased urination, decreased fluid intake, and heat. Keep reading to learn how to avoid dehydration and what symptoms to watch for.

Key takeaways:
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    Water is a vital nutrient for the body and is essential for life. Dehydration is the technical name for low levels of water in the body.
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    If not closely monitored, vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration and hospitalization.
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    Knowing the signs and symptoms of dehydration is important, not only for yourself, but also for those you are caring for.
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    Avoiding hospitalization due to dehydration is achieved through adequate fluid intake. Monitoring fluid intake is especially important for infants, the older population, and those suffering from sickness.

Why is water so important?

Water serves many vital roles in and around the earth, but also in and around our bodies. The U.S. Geological Service states that water is essential for the life of every cell in your body and is the foundational building block for cell reproduction. More specifically, water is important for:

  • Temperature regulation. Through perspiration and respiration, the body uses water to regulate temperature and keep it at approximately 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37°C);
  • Nutrient transportation. Blood is composed of large amounts of water. The water in the blood helps metabolize and transport nutrients from food to the rest of the body, allowing these nutrients to fuel activity;
  • Shock absorber. Without water to absorb force, the brain, spine, and a developing embryo are at risk of traumatic injury. Water allows us to run, jump, and play, without concern of damage to the nervous system or other organs;
  • Digestion. Water helps produce saliva, which is important for the digestion of food and other oral functions;
  • Joint lubrication. Our bodies are non-rigid, flexible machines, that can achieve impressive feats. Water lubricates joints, allowing us to move, lift objects, and other activities.

Who is at risk of dehydration?

Vomiting and diarrhea are the primary causes of dehydration. Dehydration commonly occurs when someone suffering from an intestinal bug expels too much water through vomiting and diarrhea. The body views the virus or bacteria as an enemy and seeks to remove it using whatever means possible.

According to the National Library of Medicine, certain populations are at greater risk of dehydration:

  • Children. The dreaded intestinal virus often runs rampant in children. Our sweet, little children touch everything and eat everything. With their immature immune systems and eagerness to play closely with friends at school, children easily acquire the "stomach bug." This puts them at risk of dehydration resulting from excessive diarrhea and vomiting;
  • Older adults. As we age, our sense of thirst can diminish causing a decline in the appropriate amount of fluid intake. Knowing this helps encourage individuals to implement other methods of monitoring fluid consumption. However, proper fluid intake can be quite a challenge for the older population who also suffers from memory loss. The combination of decreased thirst and memory loss can put them at an even greater risk of dehydration;
  • People with certain chronic illnesses. People with diabetes, cystic fibrosis, and kidney problems are at greater risk of dehydration. Often these diseases affect the proper functioning of the kidneys. Mindfully and intentionally intaking the appropriate amount of water in a day is vital for healthy bodily functioning;
  • Pregnant women. With the many hormone changes, nausea and vomiting is a common symptom for pregnant women especially during their first trimester. Excessive vomiting needs to be reported to your Ob/Gyn;
  • Outdoor workers. Those who work or exercise outdoors can easily and quickly become dehydrated, often without recognizing this.

Symptoms of dehydration

The symptoms of dehydration vary from mild to severe. Infants and many older individuals will need attentive and careful monitoring to ensure adequate fluid intake.

Mild symptoms

  • Increased thirst;
  • Dry mouth;
  • Dark urine;
  • Decreased urine output or sweat;
  • Dry skin;
  • Tiredness;
  • Headache;

Symptoms in infants

  • Dry mouth and tongue;
  • No wet diapers for three hours or more;
  • High fever;
  • Unusually drowsy;
  • Irritability;
  • Sunken eyes.

Symptoms meriting a doctor visit

  • Infants and children demonstrating any of the above signs of dehydration;
  • Confusion;
  • Fainting;
  • No urine output;
  • Elevated heart rate. Normal heart rate in adults is 60 to 100 beats per minute);
  • Increased respiratory rate. Normal respiratory rate in adults is 12 to 24 breathes per minute;
  • Vomiting or diarrhea for 24 hours or more.

Tips and tricks of dehydration prevention

If you notice mild symptoms of dehydration, immediately increase your fluid consumption. Water is the first choice for replenishing the body. However, if you have been experiencing diarrhea, vomiting, high fever, or activity in a hot atmosphere, drinking an electrolyte drink or rehydration solution is a better choice.

It is also important to increase your normal water intake when you are sick or working outside. It is possible to sweat without knowing it. In hot, dry environments, sweat can evaporate from the skin without causing the skin to feel damp. People working in these conditions often don't recognize the need for increased fluid intake.

For adults, two to three liters of fluid consumption a day is recommended. With children's increased metabolism, their required fluid intake varies. However, children are more sensitive to dehydration. Therefore, prompt response to dehydration is necessary, especially in regard to children.

If at risk for dehydration, avoid caffeinated beverages since caffeine is a diuretic and will increase fluid output. In severe situations, an IV fluid infusion delivered in the hospital setting is necessary to restore fluid and electrolyte balance. Here is more information on dehydration and other tips and tricks.

Since water is essential for the proper functioning of cells within the body, adequate fluid intake is vital to avoid dehydration. Recognizing the early signs of dehydration is important, so hospitalization is prevented. When sick, working outside in the heat, or pregnant, be sure to increase your fluid intake.


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