Watch out! Dehydration can be deadly

A adult requires between 1.5 and two litres of water per day. When you have dehydration, it means you are using or losing more fluid than what you are taking. Fotosearch

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Dr Flo,
What is dehydration? What are the ‘consequences’ of dehydration? Is it fatal? Please shed light on this.

Dear Alnashir,
When you have dehydration, it means you are using or losing more fluid than what you are taking, and your body’s cells, tissues and organs do not have enough fluid to function properly. A adult requires between 1.5 and two litres of water per day. The requirement is higher if there is excessive sweating due to physical strain or exercise, if the weather is hot and in some illnesses.
Dehydration can occur if you do not take enough water, if you are sweating excessively, if you have a fever, if you have diarrhoea and/or vomiting, if you are passing a lot of urine due to high blood glucose levels or if you have taken something that increases your frequency of urination such as alcohol and some medication.
When you are dehydrated, you feel thirsty, tired, dizzy, have a dry mouth and dry skin, reduced urination with formation of very concentrated urine and you get constipation. If the dehydration is severe, you can develop fast heart rate and breathing, low blood pressure, muscle cramps, kidney failure, electrolyte derangement, confusion, seizures, coma and even death.
Mild and moderate dehydration can be corrected easily by taking fluids orally. Severe dehydration is corrected with intravenous fluids, as well as supportive management for any other abnormalities that develop.
To prevent dehydration, take adequate amounts of water daily, increase your water intake in case the weather is hotter, or if you are sweating a lot for whatever reason, when you are ill. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and excessively sugary drinks as they can worsen dehydration. Vomiting and diarrhoea are especially dangerous for young children and it is important that they take fluids to replace every loss. This replacement depends on the weight of the child and the severity of dehydration. Oral rehydration solutions are sold over the counter and can be used for children (and adults) when there is vomiting and diarrhoea.

Dr Flo,
For the past five years, I have had stomachaches whenever I eat food, especially proteins. I have sought medical help, but the only prescription I get is flagyl and dewormers. These only help for some time and then the problem starts again. What is wrong with me?

Dear Wairegi,
The pain you feel after eating is most likely due to inflammation of the lining of the stomach/intestines. This can be due to infection or irritation by excess stomach acid, food allergies, food intolerance and other possible causes of inflammation.
Since you have had these symptoms for a long time, it is advisable for you to visit a stomach specialist (gastroenterologist) for examination, stool and blood tests and probably endoscopy, to check the inside of your digestive system. You will be treated based on the diagnosis made from the findings. You would also benefit from consulting a nutritionist, so that together you can determine which diet is best for you.

Dr Flo.
I have white discharge and I strain when passing urine. What could be the problem with me?

Dear B K,
The white urethral discharge most likely means you have an ongoing infection. It may be due to chlamydia infection, trichomonas infection, gonorrhoea or infection by other types of bacteria. You most likely acquired the infection through sexual transmission from any partner you have had in the past three to six months.
If it is not treated, the symptoms may actually reduce with time, even when the infection is still present. The danger with this is that the infection can spread to the testicles and the rest of the reproductive tract and in the long run, can lead to infertility. The infection can also spread to the rest of the body, causing serious illness. If you have repeated infections, you can develop a urethral stricture, which means there is narrowing of the urethra due to scar tissue formation. Any time you have unprotected intercourse, you can spread the infection to your partner. In women, this can lead to infection in the reproductive tract and pelvic organs, and can also lead to fertility problems.
Another possible cause of your symptoms is prostatitis. This is inflammation of the prostate, which is a small gland within the male pelvis, situated just below the bladder. The prostate may get inflammation either from an infection that leaks into it from the urethra, or from injury, or other causes. When you have prostatitis, you may have difficulty passing urine, pain or burning sensation when passing urine, cloudy or bloody urine, low abdominal or low back pain and pain during ejaculation.
You need to see a doctor and have a sample of the urine and the discharge taken for analysis and culture in a good laboratory. You also need a chlamydia test, since many times a chlamydia infection is not easily diagnosed using the regular urine tests. It is also advisable for you to do an HIV test. Due to the straining while passing urine, you may also benefit from a prostate ultrasound. You will be given antibiotics to treat the infection, depending on the results. Abstain from sexual intercourse until you have completed treatment, and you have been retested and found to be cured. Any partners you have had in the past three to six months also need to be treated, for their own health’s sake, and also to prevent re-infection to you.

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