Updated: Aug 28, 2019
Our bodies are sophisticated machines that continuously perform checks and balances with our many systems, including fluid balance. Dehydration can range from mild discomfort to life-threatening complications. Knowing what signs to look for is a way we can tune into this feedback.
8 Signs of Dehydration
Color of Urine
The quickest and easiest way to assess your hydration status is to check your urine. Clear to the lightest yellow means you’re hydrated. Darker yellow indicates it’s time for some water, and a deep orange is a sign that you’ve been dehydrated for some time.
Your saliva production goes down when you’re dehydrated. A dry, cotton-y feeling in the mouth or increased thirst is a signal to get some fluids.
An inner membrane of your eyes is made of an aqueous layer. Dehydration reduces fluid levels throughout the entire body, so your eyes can start to feel dry, red, or irritated.
Cracked lips, fine lines, and dry or flaky skin can be your body’s way of begging you for more water. Without enough moisture, your skin cells can go from plump and juicy to dry like a raisin. A quick way to check is to pull down your bottom lip. It should appear to be pink and moist.
Headaches and dizziness are common signs of dehydration and are usually paired with a feeling of fatigue. Dehydration headaches can happen anywhere on your head and usually feel worse with movement.
Constipation can be caused by many things, but lack of fluids is the simplest one to address. Your body needs enough water to keep your stool hydrated and flowing through the colon effortlessly. During dehydration, water is drawn from the colon to maintain blood pressure, resulting in a dry, hard-to-pass stool.
Loss of water and sodium, usually through sweat, can cause your muscles to cramp or seize up. This typically happens after a long workout. If this happens, it’s important to replenish with fluids that contain electrolytes, such as coconut water.
Lack of Sweat
This is one of the most critical signs of dehydration. If you’ve been in a hot environment and can’t work up a sweat, or have stopped sweating, you need to drink some water and cool down immediately. Overheating can lead to a heat stroke.
How Much Water Do You Personally Need?
Use this equation:
Take your body weight and divide it in half. This will give you the ounces of water you need per day (150 lbs / 2 = 75 oz/day).
There are 8 ounces in a cup, so divide the ounces by 8 to determine the cups per day (75 oz/8 = 9.4 cups/day).
If you are exercising, pregnant, breastfeeding, or work in a profession outdoors (such as landscaping) you should drink more.
It’s a wonderful habit to start carrying a BPA-free or stainless steel reusable water bottle with you. You’ll be surprised how often you’ll reach for it when it’s right next to you.
Watermelon, cucumbers, celery, and cantaloupe are also hydrating foods to snack on.
What's your favorite way to stay hydrated? Share with us in the comments!
Popkin, B. M., D'Anci, K. E., & Rosenberg, I. H. (2010). Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition reviews, 68(8), 439–458. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908954/