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What are the Effects of Dehydration?

By R. Britton
Updated May 17, 2024
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Dehydration is a lack of water in the body. There are many effects of dehydration and these signs and symptoms will vary with each individual. The symptoms which occur also depend on the severity of the dehydration and will get progressively worse. As little as one percent dehydration can have a significant impact both physically and mentally. Ten percent dehydration or above can result in death.

Dehydration occurs when more water is leaving the body than is being taken in. Dehydration can be caused by a variety of factors including alcohol consumption, excessive urination, fever, and vomiting. Necessary body processes, which occur regularly throughout the day, such as sweating, and even the process of breathing release water from the body. It is essential that enough fluids are consumed to make up for those lost during the day, otherwise dehydration can set in.

Stimulants such as caffeine and supplements which increase the normal metabolic rate speeds up the rate of urination, meaning that the amount of liquid leaving the body increases dramatically. Large scale or serious, widespread burns, wounds, and very damaged skin causes dehydration. Significant amounts of fluid escape through the affected areas.

Studies indicate that the effects of dehydration at just one percent can reduce mental and physical performance and reaction by over 15 percent. One of the most common symptoms of mild dehydration is a headache which usually gets increasingly worse unless the lost fluids are replaced. This is often accompanied by an inability to focus and is very common among people who work for long periods without taking a break. Other symptoms of mild dehydration include lethargy and a general nonspecific feeling of being unwell. Each person that suffers from dehydration will most likely experience a different combination of symptoms which gradually get worse.

A rapid, thready pulse and erratic heartbeat are often present when dehydration exceeds eight percent. At nine percent dehydration and beyond, immediate medical attention is needed. Extensive brain damage, a stroke, and the inability to regulate internal body temperature can set in. Death is likely if serious dehydration is left untreated.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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