Are You Dehydrated or Just Thirsty?

The summer sun can make you thirsty, to be sure. But how do you know when you’ve gone beyond simple thirst to dehydrated? Is there even a difference?

As it turns out, thirst and dehydration are different things. Thirst is just a symptom. It is the body’s way of telling you to get up off your duff and get a drink of water. Dehydration, on the other hand, is when more fluids are leaving the body than are being replenished. Dictionary.com gives the following definition for dehydration “A condition caused by the excessive loss of water from the body, which causes a rise in blood sodium levels. Since dehydration is most often caused by excessive sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea, water loss is usually accompanied by a deficiency of electrolytes.”

Some say that if you are thirsty, it’s already too late and your body is dehydrated. But no, thirst is just a signal that there might be a slight reduction in your body’s fluids. Considering that the body is nearly 60% water and water is essential for the proper functioning of every single cell, it is very important to heed this signal. It is not dehydration, but it is its precursor.

Here are a few simple signs that might indicate that you are dehydrated:

  • Crankiness is a sure sign of dehydration.
  • Bad breath – Dehydration causes the body to produce less saliva, thus bacteria builds on the tongue and bad breath results.
  • Muscle cramps – Heat (and overuse) can cause your muscles to cramp. Proper hydration regulates body temperature, without it, cramping can occur.
  • Fatigue – Have you ever heard the expression “I hit the wall’? That’s what it feels like when you’re dehydrated. Chronic fatigue is closely linked to chronic dehydration. Fatigue, headaches, and poor concentration are a common dehydration trio. When you start to feel sluggish, do your brain a favor and drink some water.
  • Food cravings (particularly for sweets) – When dehydrated, the body has difficulty producing glycogens and other energy stores. Eating sweets can feel like getting a boost. But really, you need more water.

Dehydration is uncomfortable, but in late stages dehydration can become very dangerous leading to fever, vomiting, dizziness, confusion, urinary and kidney problems, seizures, and hypovolemic shock (low blood volume). Yeah. It can be very serious. So don’t ignore your body’s first clue: if you’re thirsty, get a drink of water.

I drank two glasses of water during this article. How about you?