Dehydration can be caused by vomiting, diarrhea, food poisoning, stomach viruses such as norovirus, extreme physical exertion, hangovers, and many other conditions.
Dehydration can progress to become severe enough to require rapid IV fluid rehydration to prevent death or severe illness. Signs of significant dehydration may include severe general weakness, light headedness or fainting, rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, pale or ashen colored skin, decreased urination, and lethargy and other behavior changes, among other things.
People often try to drink water when dehydrated. While water is better than nothing, a better option is to drink electrolyte replacement solution or ERS. ERS usually contains some glucose in addition to electrolytes such as sodium chloride (salt) and potassium, and minerals such as calcium. The glucose allows for rapid absorption of water into the blood stream through the stomach lining by a physiologic process called active transport. Water without glucose, tends to absorb much more slowly. Because water stays in the stomach longer, it causes nausea in many situations. Because of this, many patients drinking plain water give up trying to rehydrate on their own, thinking that their only option is IV fluids. For many, simply trying to rehydrate with ERS instead of plain water can help patients avoid trouble. Diabetics need to avoid high glucose solutions and need to watch their blood sugar levels closely when dehydrated.
For patients dehydrated who remain nauseated despite drinking ERS, it is worth trying to treat the nausea with ginger products. Fresh ginger tea and candied ginger are two good options. Chewing a few fennel seeds can also quickly relieve nausea and stomach upset.
If nausea and vomiting persist, anti-nausea medication and IV fluids may be needed. Emergency rooms and urgent care clinics commonly offer these services. For patients wanting to avoid travel and long waits, IV fluids may be brought to you by your local physician house call service. If you experience severe dehydration symptoms, the safest strategy is to get yourself quickly to your nearest hospital ER.