There’s nothing quite like a glass of ice cold water when you’re thirsty — and that’s because your body needs it. Get the facts on dehydration and its effects on your body.

Dehydration is a common problem that is often dismissed as something that’s not very serious, but not having enough water can lead to headaches, fever, cramps, and other health issues. In more serious cases, it can lead to delirium or death.

So what exactly causes dehydration, how can you tell if you are dehydrated, and what can you do to prevent the issue? Put down the soda and find out.

What is dehydration?

According to Web MD, dehydration occurs when the loss of body fluids exceeds the amount that comes in. Because we lose water just by exhaling, sweating, or using the bathroom, we constantly have to replenish the water we lose to keep our bodies functioning.

What are the symptoms of dehydration?

As soon as you feel thirsty, you are beginning to notice signs that it’s time to drink up. There are also other surprising issues that can be caused by dehydration.

dehydrationDr. John Higgins, an associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Texas in Houston and chief of cardiology at Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital told Everyday Health that dry skin, muscle cramps, food cravings, and even bad breath are signals that your body is dehydrated.

“If you’re not producing enough saliva in the mouth, you can get bacteria overgrowth and one of the side reactions of that is bad breath from chronic dehydration,” Dr. Higgins said.

Your urine is also a key factor in determining whether you’re dehydrated. You may be experiencing dehydration if you have little or no urination, or if your urine color is darker than normal.

It’s important to seek medical attention if you’re experiencing a fever, vomiting, diarrhea, or weakness for more than a day.

How do you prevent and treat dehydration?

dehydrationThe solution to dehydration is simple: drink water! And the key word there is water. While you may think other caffeinated drinks such as energy drinks, soda, coffee and tea will do the trick, the body processes these differently than water. Also skip sports drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages. Although these drinks are hydrating, you’re also consuming a lot of other things that your body just doesn’t need. Like caffeinated drinks, alcohol is actually dehydrating, so skip it altogether and go for the water.

The Institute of Medicine, an independent nonprofit scientific organization, says that men aged 19 and over should generally take in at least 3.7 liters — about 15.6 cups — of total water every day. Women ages 19 and up should take in 2.7 liters of total water every day, which is about 11.4 cups. However, how much you drink also depends on the types of activities you’re doing.

Everyone has times where drinks aren’t readily available, but try your best to get enough water. From better skin to a quicker brain, you’ll notice the difference when you’re not dehydrated. So drink up!

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