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Dehydration Symptoms

How to Recognize the Symptoms of Dehydration


Updated June 18, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of dehydration is essential as a cancer patient going through chemotherapy. Vomiting and diarrhea can often be a side effect of chemotherapy, and dehydration may be a result.

Dehydration is the loss of body fluids that can occur because of diarrhea, vomiting, heavy sweating, fever, and overexposure to the sun. Without these essential fluids, our bodies cannot function properly.

Signs of Dehydration

  • dizziness, general feeling of weakness
  • less urine output
  • dry mouth
  • thirst
  • difficulty in swallowing dry foods
  • dry skin/lips
You should call your doctor if you experience little or no urine output for 12 hours or more, urine that is dark in color, dizziness while standing up or fainting, or a feeling of confusion.

Preventing Dehydration

The best way to prevent dehydration is to drink fluids. It may be difficult to drink and eat during bouts of nausea and diarrhea, but even small amounts help. You can try drinking a few ounces at a time of clear liquids every 15-30 minutes until you can keep larger amounts down. Ice chips can work wonders for dry mouth and to intake small amounts of fluid.

You should also try to avoid drinking large amounts of caffeinated beverages like sodas and coffee to prevent dehydration. Caffeine in large amounts can increase your urine output and possibly lead to dehydration. Alcohol is a known diuretic and can also lead to dehydration. Remember, if you think you are dehydrated or at risk of becoming dehydrated, call your doctor. He or she can prescribe medications to relieve vomiting and diarrhea, thus reducing the risk of dehydration. He or she may recommend certain fluids or oral rehydrating solutions for your specific situation. Fluids can be delivered intravenously if needed. Always talk to your doctor before making your own oral hydrating solution or taking salt tablets to relieve dehydration.

Source: American Cancer Society.
University of Maryland Medical Center.

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