Dehydration occurs when someone does not take in enough water. This can be due to such things as vomiting, diarrhea, strenuous exercise and illness.

When someone is ill, it is important to carefully monitor that they are drinking enough water.

Always call the doctor or nurse if you think that someone might be getting dehydrated. Don’t wait for all the signs to show up. It might be too late.

Most problems can be avoided if you recognize and treat dehydration early. However, if it is not treated promptly, it can result in seizures, brain damage, shock or even death.


  • Illness, especially with vomiting (throwing up), diarrhea or nausea
  • Not wanting to drink water or other liquids
  • Certain medical conditions such as Diabetes
  • Strenuous physical activity that results in a lot of sweating
  • Very hot weather or being out in the sun too long
    Certain medications (watch carefully for dehydration if taking lithium or “water pills” for blood pressure)

Signs and Symptoms

  • Urinate (pee) less
  • Urine is dark yellow/brown and may smell bad
  • Skin changes:
    • dry/hot or cold/clammy
    • reddish or yellowish in color
  • Cracked lips
  • Dry mouth
  • Sunken or dry eyes (no tears)
  • Dizzy and lightheaded – may fall down
  • Weak, not interested in doing anything
  • Sleepy and tired – hard to wake up
  • Weight loss


  • Drink Water. Drink plenty of water or other liquids that do not contain caffeine. This is especially important when not feeling well. Offer at least 8 (8 oz.) glasses a day, more if feeling ill or the weather is very hot. Also, remember to give extra liquids to people who have feeding tubes after checking with physician.
  • Avoid Alcohol & Caffeine. Drinks that include alcohol and caffeine (coffee, many sodas such as Coke & Pepsi) cause dehydration more quickly. Drink water or juice instead.
  • Reduce Physical Activity. When its very hot outside, cut back on activities and stay in the shade. Sweating can cause dehydration more quickly.
  • Avoid exposure to extreme heat and/or humidity. Limit or eliminate outside activities, including trips in extreme weather conditions, especially if you are medically complex. (e.g. avoid trips in car/vans/places with no air conditioning)
  • Catch it Early. Look for signs of dehydration and act before it worsens.
    If you suspect a person is becoming dehydrated, give them water to sip right away.

To read more about this topic, from this and related documents, please see State of Connecticut Department of Developmental Services (including treatment options).



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