Stay hydrated this holiday – learn how in part 2 of our fantastic first aid series

By Charlene
30 November 2013

We know how quickly accidents can happen and being prepared could make a huge difference when they do. Not everyone has completed a first aid course so we’re bringing you a fantastic seven-part first aid series to help you if something happens in your home or while you’re on holiday.

It’s week two and this time we look at dehydration. We show you how to determine how seriously someone is dehydrated then we’ll tell you what to do about it.


Photo: flickr: stevendepolo

  What are the signs that someone is dehydrated? You can draw a distinction between mild and serious dehydration. Symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration # A dry mouth

# Sleepiness or exhaustion. Children tend to be less active than usual

# Thirst

# You don’t feel the need to urinate. You should start worrying if a baby hasn’t wet their nappy in more than three hours. Adults should worry if they haven’t urinated in more than eight hour.

# Few or no tears when someone cries # Dry skin # Headache # Constipation # Dizziness or light-headedness Symptoms of serious hydration

# Extreme thirst

# Sleepiness in babies or kids

# Irritability and confusion in adults

# A dry mouth

# No sweating

# Little or no urinating. If urine is produced it’s dark yellow or orange in colour

# Sunken eyes

# A dry skin that doesn’t “jump back” after it’s been pinched

# The soft spot on the top of a baby’s head sinks in deeply

# Low blood pressure

# Accelerated pulse

# Fast breathing

# No tears when babies or kids cry

# A high fever

# In most cases the person will become unconscious.

Can I treat the patient at home or should I call emergency services?

# Mild to moderate dehydration can usually be treated at home.

# If the person has symptoms of serious dehydration they need immediate medical care.

# Children and older adults need to be treated with more care.

# Call your GP immediately of you see any of the following symptoms:

  • Severe diarrhea
  • Bloody in the stool
  • Mild diarrhea that lasts more than three days
  • Vomiting of liquids
  • Irritation, confusion or sleepiness


What’s the step-by-step treatment for someone who’s dehydrated?

  1. Move the patient to a cool area. It will prevent them losing moisture through sweating.
  2. Keep the patient still – let them sit or lie down. It will stop them exerting themselves or fainting.
  3. Put cool, wet cloths on the person’s body. It will cool them down and stop further dehydration.
  4. Keep the cloths damp.
  5. Give the patient small amounts of water or juice to drink. If they’re not nauseous you can also give them watery fruit such as watermelon.
In the case of diarrhea or vomiting:

  1. Don’t let them have any fruit, juice, dairy, caffeine or fatty foods until 48 hours after the symptoms have cleared up.
  2. Make an electrolyte replacement mixture and give the patient frequent but small amounts (30-60 ml every 10-20 minutes or for as long as the person can keep it down).
  3. Don’t use the electrolyte replacement mixture for longer than 16 hours without consulting a doctor.

What do I need in my first-aid kit?

# A thermostat to measure fever.

# A rehydration solution. If you don’t have a rehydration solution you can make your own. Mix the following ingredients and let the patient drink one glass of it every hour, taking small sips at a time:

1 litre cooled, boiled water

6 teaspoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt

How to prevent dehydration

# Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothes when it’s hot.

# Drink liquids regularly even if you don’t feel thirsty. Try to drink eight glasses of water every day.

# Eat fresh fruit and vegetables with a high water content such as watermelon, strawberries, cucumbers and celery.

# Drink extra water when eating dry or salty food.

# Drink more water when exercising.

# Avoid physical activity between 10 am and 2 pm.

- Alet van Zyl


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