In 1994, thousands of starving people died in the Africa nation of Rwanda. It wasn’t lack of food that killed most of these people, but cholera, a bacterial infected that cripples the ability of intestinal mucosal cells to reabsorb water. The severe diarrhea that develops can kill in days, sometimes even hours. Dehydration is deadly.
Dehydration is a deficiency condition that occurs when output of water exceeds intake. It is a great problem for athletes, military personnel, and certain industrial workers. This condition may develop following excessive sweating or as a result of prolonged water deprivation accompanied by continued water output. In either case, as water lost, the extracellular fluid becomes increasing more concentrated and water tends to leave cell by osmosis. Dehydration may also accompany illness in which prolonged vomiting or diarrhea depletes body fluids.
During dehydration, the skin and mucous membranes of the mouth feel dry, and body weight drops. Severe dehydration may develop as the temperature regulating mechanism falters due to lack of water for sweat. In severe dehydration, as waste products accumulate in the extracellular fluids, symptoms of cerebral disturbances, including mental confusion, delirium and comma, may develop.
Because the kidneys of infants are less able to conserve water than are those of adults, infant are more likely to become dehydrated. Elderly people are also especially susceptible to developing water imbalances because the sensitivity of their thirst mechanisms decreases with age and physical disabilities may make if difficult for them to obtain adequate fluids.
The treatment for dehydration is to replace the lost of water and electrolytes. If only water is replaced, the extracellular fluids will become more dilute than normal. This may produce a condition called water intoxication. [p.814 Shier, David. Butler, Jackie and Lewis, Ricky. Human Anatomy and Physiology. New York,