Signs and Symptoms of Extreme Dehydration

Drink water to prevent dehydration.
Drink water to prevent dehydration. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Dehydration occurs during hot weather, after a hard workout session or with a mild bout of the stomach flu. If steps are not taken to correct dehydration in the early stages, you will experience signs and symptoms of extreme dehydration. These symptoms happen when your body lacks the necessary fluids to continue functioning normally. It is a medical emergency and needs immediate treatment.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of extreme dehydration include a very dry and sticky-feeling mouth, extreme thirst, irritability and confusion. Your heart rate and rate of breathing will speed up. Your skin feels dry and loses the elasticity that makes it bounce back to normal when pinched. Urination will slow down or stop. Dark-colored urine is also a symptom of dehydration.


Severe diarrhea and vomiting is a common cause of extreme dehydration. Children are at higher risk because of their smaller body size. Another cause of extreme dehydration is fever and excessive sweating. You need to continually replace fluids lost by sweat and perspiration. Undiagnosed diabetics have increased urination and are at risk for becoming dehydrated. People who live in high altitudes also risk becoming dehydrated. To maintain adequate oxygen levels at higher altitudes, your breathing rate increases, so you exhale more water vapor.


Your body loses electrolytes as well as water when you become dehydrated. Electrolytes are minerals such as sodium, calcium, potassium and magnesium. It is important to keep the proper balance of these minerals in your body so it can function. If you are suffering from extreme dehydration, you will receive intravenous fluid at the hospital. Replenishment of these minerals is important for your body to resume normal functioning. Left untreated, extreme dehydration causes seizures, brain damage or loss of life.


To stay hydrated, it is important to drink water and other fluids on a regular basis. Thirst is not always a reliable indicator of hydration status, so you can check the color of your urine. Clear or light-colored urine means you are well hydrated. If you are working in hot weather, drink more fluids. If you feel you are coming down with the flu, drink extra fluids at the first signs of illness. If your urine becomes dark, your skin is dry, or you become dizzy or confused, recognize these symptoms of extreme dehydration and call 911 to seek expert medical help.

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