Dehydration happens when your body loses more fluids than you take in and results in your body lacking the water and fluids to carry out its normal functions. If dehydration isn’t treated, it can get worse and become a serious problem.

Babies, children and elderly people are more at risk of dehydration and some medical conditions and medications can also increase the risk. Most of us will have experienced mild symptoms of dehydration occasionally, you know, those times when you’re too busy to eat and drink, when you might purposely reduce fluid intake because you can’t get to or use a toilet easily, or when we’ve been ill.

The main symptoms of dehydration are:

  • Feeling thirsty.
  • Dark yellow and strong-smelling pee.
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded.
  • Feeling tired.
  • A dry mouth, lips and eyes.
  • Peeing little, and fewer than 4 times a day.
  • But if the symptoms develop to include any of the following, you or your patient need to seek urgent medical attention:
  • Feeling unusually tired.
  • Confused and disorientated.
  • Any dizziness on standing that does not go away.
  • Haven’t peed all day.
  • Weak or rapid pulse.
  • Fits (seizures).

As we mentioned earlier, the risk of dehydration can increase with certain medications and medical conditions.

  • Diabetes
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhoea.
  • Being in the sun for too long (heatstroke).
  • If you’ve been drinking alcohol.
  • Sweating too much after exercise.
  • If you have a temperature of 38C or more.
  • If you take medicines that make you pee more (diuretics).

So what do you need to do if you think you have dehydration? 

Well firstly, our advice is to avoid it in the first place. Prevention is definitely better than cure. Which can be easier said than done!  But, if you’re exercising, working in a hot location or environment, you’re ill or you’ve been drinking alcohol, you need to up that fluid intake in anticipation. The NHS ‘Eatwell Guide’ ( suggests that we need to drink 6-8 cups of fluid per day. Water, low fat milk, and sugar free drinks (including tea and coffee) all count towards the total. But be wary of energy drinks, fruit juices and smoothies and fizzy drinks as they can be high in sugar and caffeine.

Water is the healthiest (and cheapest!) choice as a thirst quencher, it’s calorie free and there are no sugars to damage your teeth. Obviously you’ll need to check if tap water is drinkable locally and bottled water may be the better option in many locations. If you don’t like plain water, try sparkling or flavoured water, tea, fruit tea or coffee, or just add a slice of lemon or lime to hot or cold water. Adding a drop of sugar free squash or fruit juice also works.

If you think you are showing signs of dehydration:

  • Drink plenty of fluid or increase your normal intake.
  • If you’re dehydrated due to vomiting or feeling sick, take small sips and gradually increase. Even if you vomit again, some fluid will be retained.
  • Drink enough to turn pee back to a pale, clear colour.
  • Consider using rehydration sachets such as Dioralyte.
  • If the dehydration is due to vomiting or diarrhoea, consult with your shoreside medical team as alongside rehydration salts, you should carry antiemetic (anti sickness) drugs as well as anti diarrhoea medication.

Dehydration can affect anyone onboard, so keep an eye out for other members of your crew and check you’re all taking on enough fluid regularly and remember that prevention is better than cure. If you’d like any further information about managing dehydration onboard, please get in touch.

If you would like a copy of our Hydration chart then click the button below for your free download.

By Rachel Smith, Paramedic
Article kindly provided by Red Square Medical