The signs of dehydration in adults include thirst, confusion, and a reduced urine output, among other things. People who develop signs of dehydration after exercising or while in hot weather should be brought to a cool environment and provided with water to sip to allow them to slowly bring their hydration levels back to normal. People can also become dehydrated in other circumstances as part of a systemic problem or a reaction to a medication. Individuals at risk for dehydration because of medical conditions are usually warned by their care providers so they can take steps to avoid it.
Early signs of dehydration in adults usually include, in addition to the above symptoms, dizziness, heart palpitations, sluggishness, and weakness. People may not realize they are dehydrated, but will feel out of sorts and tend to respond more slowly when spoken to. Slowed reaction times in response to other stimuli like hazards on a hiking trail can also be observed, and people may have trouble with tasks requiring complicated cognitive processes.
As dehydration progresses, people can develop dry mouth, a swollen tongue, chills, chest pain, and head rushes. They will not be able to sweat and can stumble and have other gait problems in addition to poor motor control of the hands. In severe cases, dehydration in adults will eventually cause nausea, seizures, and coma. If the patient is not provided with prompt treatment, death from dehydration is possible.
When caught early, dehydration in adults is very easy to treat. Getting the patient somewhere cool, offering water to drink, and sometimes spraying the body with cool water to reduce core temperature should help. It is important to avoid giving patients too much water at once, and to provide them with room temperature, rather than hot or chilled, water. Once the patient is at least partially rehydrated and is urinating normally, electrolytes can be added to the water to keep the patient's electrolyte levels stable.
In cases of severe dehydration, hospitalization may be required for adequate treatment. Dehydration in adults can be a big problem in very hot climates where people can't access environments to cool down, as well as places where water supplies are erratic. In these regions, cooling centers may be opened in the summer to provide people with water and a place to relax out of the heat. Medical personnel at such locations can screen people for dehydration and provide them with treatment, if necessary.