Digestive Health

Updated 26 April 2017

How is dehydration treated?

Taking extra fluids by mouth is the obvious treatment for dehydration and the drinking of water or other liquids is recommended.

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Taking extra fluids by mouth is the obvious treatment for dehydration and the drinking of water or other liquids is recommended.

A solution consisting of half a teaspoon of salt and eight teaspoons of sugar in a litre of previously boiled water is easily made and suitable for mild cases of dehydration. Rehydration salts in packets are also available.

If the person is unconsciousness or unable to drink, fluids can be administered via a tube inserted into the stomach.

If vomiting is constant and the situation more serious, intravenous rehydration may be necessary. Electrolytes (sodium and potassium) are also lost when someone has become dehydrated and acid-base balance is disturbed. These imbalances also need to be corrected.

There are certain conditions such as diabetes that could lead to dehydration. Family members should be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of dehydration in these relatives.

In the case of sports people taking part in strenuous sporting activities, rehydration should be a priority. Many balanced solutions containing the correct amounts of carbohydrate and electrolytes suitable for athletes are available commercially.

 

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Dr. Estelle Wilken is a Senior Specialist in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology at Tygerberg Hospital. She obtained her MBChB in 1976, her MMed (Int) in 1991 and her gastroenterology registration in 1995.

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