Doctor's Diary: Dehydration

Every day patients arrive in the emergency room with confusion, weakness, and low blood pressure, and are diagnosed with infection.  Intravenous fluid and antibiotic are ordered and sometimes within hours they are mentally back to normal.  In the past on occasion, the antibiotic had not been given.

This medication delay does not occur anymore as regulations speed hospital treatment, yet from this I learned the value of re-dehydration in the health and well-being of patients.

Each body cell is like a tiny factory reliant on water for continual chemical processes.  Without fluid, faulty brain cells lead to confusion; muscles are weak; and diminished volume leads to low blood pressure.  Many other symptoms develop like dizziness or electrolyte imbalance.

Illness, from flu to cancer, can result in less oral intake.  Vomiting and diarrhea, or reduced intestinal absorption can cause dehydration.  Additionally, medication (like diuretics) or a desert environment can contribute.

Feeling ill has many causes, but some symptoms may improve with appropriate intake of water or athletic drinks with electrolytes.  (Those who already have volume problems like heart or kidney disease must be careful.)

Maintaining adequate hydration during illness might keep you out of the emergency room.

—Gene Uzawa Dorio, M.D.