Are you dehydrated?

Dehydration occurs when your body loses more water than you take in, leaving your body without enough fluids to carry out its normal functions.

Dehydration is a particular risk for young children and older adults.  In young children it’s commonly caused by severe or prolonged vomiting or diarrhoea.

Older people naturally have lower levels of water in their system and some medical conditions and medications can deplete their fluids even more.

Living in the top end, all age groups can be susceptible especially as we start to sweat more in the increased heat and humidity of build-up and wet season.  If you drink caffeinated beverages, alcohol or exercise vigorously you are more at risk of dehydration.

Thirst is an obvious indication that you are dehydrated, here are some others that you may not be aware of.

Increased heart rate or palpitations

About 55% of your blood is water, so when you’re dehydrated blood volume decreases and blood becomes thicker, thus making your heart pump harder and faster to move blood around your body.


Low blood pressure and decreased blood flow causes your body’s defence mechanism to kick in, reducing blood supply to ‘non-vital’ organs.  This means, delivery of water, oxygen and other nutrients to your muscles, organs and brain decreases leaving you feeling sluggish and sleepy.

Light headedness

Inadequate blood flow to the brain can cause you to become dizzy when you stand up too quickly.

Brain fog

Your brain is more than 75% water and losing just 2% of your fluid volume can impair brain function affecting your short term memory, ability to focus and even decision making.  Water fuels the brain energising the nerve transmissions. It assists in delivering nutrients and removing toxins giving you more mental clarity.

Studies have shown that children and adults with ADHD and autism function better when their brains are well hydrated

Urine becomes a dark yellow.

Urine turns dark yellow when you’re dehydrated, because your kidneys start to store water instead of expelling it from your body, making it more concentrated

Urine can also change colour due to diet e.g. eating beetroot, taking vit B supplements or other medications.


A byproduct of carbohydrate [Cx(H₂O)y] metabolism is water [H2O] so a lesser known sign of dehydration is hunger, especially a craving for carbs.  Next time you find yourself craving carbs have a large glass of water and wait 20 minutes to see if you are still hungry.  Then consider increasing your daily water intake.

Dry mouth/Bad breath

When you’re dehydrated you don’t produce as much saliva.  Saliva helps to break down your food and also flush it from your mouth.  That rinsing action is reduced with the reduction in saliva thus allowing bacteria to grow causing the bad breath.

Dry mucous membranes and dry, irritated eyes

When your mucous membranes dry out your nose and sinuses feel dry and sticky.  Which is why it’s important to keep your fluid intake high when you have a cold or flu.

If you stop producing enough tears to keep your eyes lubricated it can be a sure sign you’re dehydrated.


Water keeps the intestinal walls smooth and malleable, so when you’re dehydrated it becomes less flexible and contracts slower.  As your stool transits your bowel, water is absorbed from it.  If it’s not well hydrated at the beginning of the transit, it can become dry and hard to pass.

You overheat

When you’re hot, you perspire and the evaporation of that perspiration helps to cool your body, but when you’re dehydrated you don’t produce enough perspiration to cool your body adequately and can start to overheat. In our humid climate the perspiration does not evaporate efficiently and is less able to cool you, causing you to perspire more.

If you are planning to exercise vigorously especially in warm, humid weather it may be necessary to drink more water than your thirst indicates.  To stay well hydrated, drink water before, during and after exercise.

Muscle cramps

Muscle cramps occur when a contracted muscle can’t relax.  Hydration and electrolyte balance is vital for healthy muscle function.  If you find you’re susceptible to muscle cramps especially after exercise it may be helpful to consider taking an electrolyte drink alongside drinking water to reduce the chance of muscle cramps.

Joint pain

It may surprise you to know that joints are about 80% water.  Water helps to keep your joints lubricated and moving smoothly, so if you’re suffering from frequent joint pain, try increasing your water intake as an easy and healthy way to reduce your pain.

Skin loses its elasticity

Dehydrated skin lacks moisture whereas dry skin lacks natural oils (sebum).  When your skin is dehydrated it loses its ‘plumpness’ and ability to ‘spring’ back after it has been pinched.

Attention teenagers!  Drinking plenty of water helps to keep your skin clear of blemishes by helping to flush away toxins.

Itchy skin without the presence of a rash can be an indication you are dehydrated.

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