Dehydration Discharge Information

What is dehydration?

Dehydration is a loss of too much fluid from your body. The human body is about two-thirds water and needs the water and other fluids to work well. You may lose both water or minerals (salts) or both. Your body needs the right balance of minerals to keep your heart, kidneys, and other organs working normally. In severe cases of dehydration, the loss of fluid and electrolyte imbalance can cause you to get very sick and may become life-threatening.

Dehydration can be caused by:

  • Severe diarrhea or vomiting
  • Too much sweating from fever, strenuous exercise, or being out in very hot weather
  • Increased urination, caused most often by diabetes or taking medicines that help the body get rid of extra fluid (diuretics)

People who are more at risk for dehydration are:

  • Babies less than 1 year old
  • Older adults
  • People with chronic diseases
  • People who live in or work or exercise outside in hot weather
  • People who live, work, or exercise at high altitude
  • Athletes who train for and participate in events that take hours or days to complete

How can I take care of myself when I go home?

How long it takes to get better depends on the cause of your dehydration, your treatment, how well you recover, your overall health, and any complications you may have.


  • Your provider will give you a list of your medicines when you leave the hospital.
    • Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you should take each time, how often you should take them, and why you take each one.
    • Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.
    • Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.
    • Talk to your provider before you use any other medicines, including nonprescription medicines.
  • Your provider may prescribe medicine or other therapy to:
    • Replace fluid or minerals
    • Treat vomiting or diarrhea
    • Treat the cause of the dehydration, such as controlling your blood sugar
    • Treat or prevent an infection
  • Drink enough fluids to keep your urine light yellow in color, unless you are told to limit fluids.
  • If you live, work, or play in a hot climate:
    • Drink plenty of fluids and eat foods high in water content, such as vegetables and fruit, before you exercise or work outside in the heat.
    • Drink more at the first sign you are ill
  • Take care of your health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and try to keep a healthy weight. If you smoke, try to quit. If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink. Learn ways to manage stress. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.


  • Follow your provider’s instructions for follow-up appointments and routine tests.
  • Talk with your provider about any questions or concerns you have.

Call emergency medical services or 911 if you have new or worsening:

  • Confusion
  • Seizure
  • Sunken eyes or not able to make tears
  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath

Do not drive yourself if you have any of these symptoms.

Call your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness, especially when you stand up
  • Fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat
  • Headache
  • Increased thirst and dry mouth
  • Decreased urination
  • Muscle cramps or spasms
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-02-03
Last reviewed: 2015-01-07
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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