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How is dehydration treated?

Dr. Aruna V. Josyula, MD
Geriatric Medicine Specialist

To treat dehydration, doctors may recommend four 8-ounce glasses of water per day, if you can take in water by mouth. If you are losing fluid due to diarrhea, vomiting or athletic activities, then consider drinking fluids with electrolytes, such as power drinks like Gatorade or Powerade. When dehydration is more severe, patients need to go to the hospital to receive intravenous (IV) hydration.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.

To treat dehydration, you may have any of the following:

  • Oral rehydration therapy: This therapy replaces lost body fluids by having you drink plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration. You may also drink an oral rehydration solution (ORS). An ORS has the right amounts of water, salts and sugar you need to replace body fluids.
  • Intravenous therapy: You may receive fluid through a tube placed in your vein. Lost electrolytes (mineral salts) may also be included in the fluid.
  • Hypodermoclysis: This is also called clysis. This treatment quickly gives your body a large amount of water. The water is given into the deepest layer of your skin, which helps regulate body temperature.
  • Other treatments: Treating other conditions, which may have caused your dehydration, is also important. If you are using medicines that put you at risk of dehydration, they may have to be stopped. An electrolyte imbalance may also be corrected.

The earlier dehydration is treated, the better your chance of recovery. With treatment, such as fluid replacement, you may fully recover from dehydration.

Dr. Carlos F. Lerner, MD
Pediatrician

If caught early, dehydration can often be treated at home under a doctor’s guidance.

For mild dehydration, rehydration is recommended by drinking fluids.

For moderate dehydration, fluids may need to be given through a vein (intravenous, or IV, line).

Severe dehydration should be treated immediately as a medical emergency. A hospital stay, along with intravenous fluids, will be necessary.

Do not wait until you are thirsty. Drinking water is the best option in most cases. Sports drinks generally are high in sugar, so they are not the best choice during light activity or mild weather. If you are going to be exercising or in hot weather for a long time, sports drinks are recommended to help restore body fluids, electrolytes and salt balance.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.