Summer is here, and one of the biggest plights of the warmer months is dehydration. Most of us think of dehydration as a dramatic, obvious effect, but the concept of dehydration covers an array of stages. You might just need to drink an extra glass of water or two, but more severe dehydration could potentially lead to life-threatening complications.
The problem is knowing when you’re in the early stages of dehydration. Some of the common signs could easily be associated with other things. So as summer heats up, we gathered a few unexpected signs and symptoms that you need to start drinking more water, ASAP.
1. Bad breath
While less than pleasant breath by itself doesn’t necessarily mean you’re dehydrated, it could definitely be a sign. Dehydration prevents your body from producing sufficient amounts of saliva, which could lead to bacterial overgrowth in the mouth.
It’s the same reason you wake up with “morning breath”: Saliva has antibacterial properties, but its production slows down during sleep. As a result, you wake up with an unpleasant taste in your mouth, as bacteria grow. So if your mouth often feels parched and your breath smells less than fresh, it may be time to rehydrate.
2. Dry or flushed skin
Many people believe that dehydration leads to excessive sweating, but in fact, this is only one stage of dehydration. ”As you go through various stages of dehydration, you get very dry skin,” explained Dr. John Higgins, a professor of medicine at the University of Texas in Houston, to Everyday Health. He also noted that the skin may appear flushed.
Another symptom of dehydration to look out for is skin that remains “tented” after being pinched. If the skin takes some time to return to its normal state it means it lost some of its elasticity – a clear sign that you need to increase the quantity of water you drink.
3. Muscle cramps
Experts think that the reason people get muscle cramps after working out is dehydration and electrolyte depletion. The latter occurs when the body loses a lot of fluid through sweating. As a result, it is left without sufficient levels of sodium and potassium. Those minerals help balance pH levels in your body and also control nervous system function.
Bear in mind that muscle cramping for dehydration doesn’t only happen to athletes. If you’re walking around on a hot summer day and start to feel muscle pain, it could be a sign that you’re not drinking enough water.
4. Fever and chills
If you feel flu-like symptoms such as dizziness and fever it could indicate moderate or serious dehydration. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke compounded by dehydration is known to cause fever and chills. You may be sweating profusely while your skin is cool to the touch.
The higher the fever the more dehydrated your body may become. Unless your body temperature decreases, the skin will lose its cool and become hot and dry to the touch. At this point, it’s important that you cool yourself down immediately and seek medical help, according to the CDC. A few ways to cool down are applying ice or wet cloth to your body and moving to a cool area. Of course, these are all short-term solutions until you can see a doctor.
If you have an unyielding headache and you aren’t sure what the source is, dehydration may be at fault. As MedlinePlus points out, even mild dehydration can cause a headache which can either be tolerable or intense.
Dehydration can also trigger migraine episodes, for reasons that aren’t fully understood at the moment. Recent research suggested that dehydration can temporarily share brain tissue, which may be the trigger for the headache. In any case, drinking a full glass of water and continuing to sip on more fluids during the day can ease your pain if dehydration is indeed the culprit.
6. Craving sweets
Your liver needs sufficient amounts of water to function properly. When you’re dehydrated, it can be difficult for the liver to release glycogen (stored glucose) and other components of your energy stores, which can lead to food cravings, particularly for sweets.
It is possible for some people to crave salty snacks as well, but craving sweets is more common because the body is experiencing difficulty releasing glucose into the bloodstream to use as fuel. Experts also note that if you suddenly feel hungry soon after a meal, you probably need to drink water to help your liver function. to learn about other conditions that food cravings could be pointing to, read our previous article These Food Cravings Could Indicate Health Problems.
7. Constant fatigue
As we already established, staying hydrated helps your body deliver key nutrients to your cells, and keep your organs doing what they are supposed to. So naturally, hydration is crucial to maintain your energy throughout the day. Not getting enough water can make you feel constantly tired and as if you’re ‘dragging’.
Moreover, hydration can have a direct impact on sleep quality, according to the Sleep Foundation. Of course, overdoing it isn’t recommended either. Excess hydration can cause you to wake up at night to go to the bathroom, which can also lead to fatigue.
Am I dehydrated or is it something else?
All the symptoms we listed could indicate dehydration but could also be applied to other health conditions. So how can you tell if it’s dehydration or something else? Thirst isn’t a reliable indicator because by the time you feel thirsty you are already mildly dehydrated, according to Mayo Clinic. On the other hand, lack of thirst doesn’t necessarily mean you’re well hydrated. Here are two other ways to check whether your body is dehydrated:
- The skin test. Use two fingers to pinch some skin on the back of your hand, and then let it go. If it doesn’t spring back to its normal position in a couple of seconds, you’re probably dehydrated.
- Check your urine. This is probably the most well-known dehydration indicator. If you’re well-hydrated, your urine should be mostly clear. The darker it is, the more dehydrated you are.