Can Diarrhea Cause Dehydration – 7 Facts to Know

Dehydration is a condition in which the body loses a tremendous amount of water due to several reasons, one of which is diarrhea. It impacts various organs of the body, and in severe cases, it can damage the kidney or even the brain. Dehydration is not serious until there is a severe condition. Various causes and symptoms of diarrhea and how it causes dehydration will be discussed further.


Diarrhea is a very common problem. Usually, it’s mild and brief. Sometimes, it can be severe, especially in infants. The basic symptom of diarrhea is more bowel movement than usual, and the stool is waterier than usual. Diarrhea leads to dehydration because a large amount of water and salt is excreted from the body, which causes fatigue, cramps, unconsciousness and blood or mucous in bowel movement.

2-What is Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is a condition characterized by loose or watery bowel movement or stool, accompanied by abdominal cramps, bloating and constant urge to have a bowel movement. It’s critical to get medical help if diarrhea doesn’t go away or if it’s followed by serious symptoms like dehydration or blood in the stool.

2.1- Causes of Diarrhea

Infectious diarrhea can be brought on by parasites, germs, or viruses. Salmonella, E. Coli, rotavirus, and norovirus are frequently responsible.

Food intolerances or sensitivities, such as gluten sensitivity or lactose intolerance, can cause diarrhoea in certain individuals.

Diarrhea is a side effect of several drugs, particularly antibiotics, which upset the normal balance of bacteria in the stomach.

Chronic diarrhea can be brought on by illnesses such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The impact of emotional stress and worry on the digestive tract can occasionally lead to diarrhea.

2.2- Symptoms of Diarrhea

Loose, watery faeces that happen more frequently than normal are the hallmark of diarrhea.

Along with diarrhea, some people may also feel bloated or full in their abdomens.

Fever and other flu-like symptoms may accompany diarrhea if it results from an infection.

When diarrhea is present, the need to go to the toilet becomes quite intense and urgent.

Abdominal discomfort or cramping is a common side effect of diarrhea that can range in severity from moderate to severe.

Vomiting and nausea are sometimes experienced in conjunction with diarrhea, particularly when the diarrhea is the result of an illness.

2.3- How Diarrhea is Transmitted

Germs that cause diarrhea are easily transferred from person to person, especially between children. Usually, they spread quickly among kids who haven’t figured out how to use the loo. By thoroughly washing their hands, both adults and children can lessen the infection’s spread.

3-What is Dehydration

Dehydration is the imbalance in electrolytes of the body when body loses more fluid than it takes in dehydration. It affects the proper functioning of the body, it may cause excessive sweating, vomiting, diarrhea or certain medical conditions.

3.1- Causes and Symptoms of Dehydration

3.1.1- Causes

Some of the common causes of dehydration are-

Dehydration and fluid loss can result from excessive perspiration brought on by a fever, hot weather, or strenuous physical exercise.

If fluid intake is not modified appropriately, several drugs, such as diuretics (water pills), can increase urine output and worsen dehydration.

Significant fluid and electrolyte loss can result from vomiting and diarrhea, particularly if they are severe or prolonged.

3.1.2- Symptoms of Dehydration

Some of the common causes of dehydration are-

One of the earliest indicators of dehydration is feeling thirsty, which is your body’s way of telling you that it needs more fluids.

Dehydration can lead to a reduction in saliva production, which can cause dry lips and mouth.

Skin that is dehydrated may feel tight, dry, and less elastic than usual. It might look wrinkled or flushed in certain situations.

Dehydration can cause an increase in heart rate when the body tries to compensate for decreased blood volume.

Feelings of weakness and exhaustion as well as diminished cognitive and physical abilities can result from dehydration.

3.2- Other Factors Leading to Dehydration

Various factors can increase the chance of occurrence of dehydration, some of them are-

3.2.1- Climatic Conditions

Hot or humid weather and high temperatures increase sweating and thus increase fluid loss and cause dehydration more rapidly.

3.2.2- Infections

Vomiting and diarrhea are examples of gastrointestinal disorders that can cause fast fluid and electrolyte loss, raising the possibility of dehydration. Infection-related fever can further exacerbate dehydration by raising the need for fluids.

3.2.3- Physical Activity

Exercise and other physically demanding activities, particularly in warm climates, can result in considerable fluid loss through sweat. Dehydration can occur when fluids lost during and after exercise are not sufficiently replaced.

3.2.4- Alcohol and Caffeine

Due to their diuretic properties, alcohol and caffeinated drinks can cause increased urine output and fluid loss when ingested in excess without sufficient fluid replacement.

3.2.5- Age

Due to variables including lower thirst awareness, altered renal function that affects fluid balance, and a larger body surface area to volume ratio, infants, young children, and elderly individuals are more vulnerable to dehydration.

4-Can Diarrhea Cause Dehydration

Yes, Diarrhea can cause dehydration especially when it persists for longer periods. In most of the cases, severe diarrhea causes dehydration. The reasons why diarrhea contributes to dehydration are-

Increased water content in diarrhea stools causes a higher fluid loss during bowel movements. If the fluids are not sufficiently restored, this fast fluid loss might result in dehydration.

In an attempt to flush waste materials and preserve electrolyte balance, the body may also produce more pee when experiencing diarrhea. This extra fluid loss has the potential to worsen dehydration.

Diarrhea can cause the loss of vital electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, and chloride, in addition to water. Electrolyte imbalance brought on by diarrhea might exacerbate dehydration since electrolytes are essential for maintaining appropriate fluid balance.

Frequent and severe episodes of diarrhea, concomitant vomiting, fever, young age (particularly in newborns and young children), elderly age, and prior medical problems that impact fluid balance are some of the variables that might raise the risk of dehydration from diarrhea.

5-Who are at Higher Risk of Dehydration

There are several groups of people who are at higher risk of dehydration due to various factors, like-

5.1- Infants

Due to their increased surface area to volume ratio, babies and young children might lose fluids through their skin more quickly.

5.2- Athletes

Due to increased perspiration and fluid loss, people who participate in severe physical activities—especially in hot and humid environments—are more likely to get dehydrated. Dehydration can occur from inadequate fluid replacement during and after exercise, which can harm recovery and performance.

5.3- Patient having Chronic Medical Condition

Adrenal insufficiency, diabetes, kidney illness, heart failure, and other medical diseases can alter fluid balance and raise the risk of dehydration. Diuretics, among other medications used to treat these diseases, can cause fluid loss.

5.4- People with Gastrointestinal Issues

Dehydration is more likely when conditions including vomiting, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal illnesses cause fast fluid and electrolyte loss. Over time, chronic gastrointestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can also lead to dehydration.

6-Prevention of Dehydration

The best way to prevent dehydration is to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water, but it can only occur in normal conditions. Certain situations increase the risk of dehydration and diarrhoea. Some key strategies to prevent dehydration are-

Throughout the day, sip on lots of liquids, especially water. At least eight glasses, or around 2 litres of water, should be consumed daily; however, this might vary depending on personal circumstances, including exercise level, weather, and general health.

Increase your fluid intake to replenish lost fluids during times when you are losing more fluids due to hot weather, activity, sickness (particularly diarrhea or vomiting), or nursing. When necessary, sip on electrolyte-rich liquids, water, and oral rehydration solutions.

As a gauge of your level of hydration, pay attention to the color of your urine. Urine should ideally have a light golden colour. Urine with a dark yellow or amber hue might indicate dehydration.

Limit the use of diuretics, which include alcohol and caffeine, as these can raise urine output and cause fluid loss.

Use ORS solutions to replace lost fluids and electrolytes if you’re dehydrated from diseases like vomiting or diarrhea. These specifically designed solutions aid in reestablishing the proper balance of hydration.

To help stay hydrated, eat foods high in water content, such as fruits (such as cucumbers, oranges, and melons) and vegetables (like lettuce, celery, and tomatoes) and also avoid excessive exposure to heat and hot environments.

Take particular care to keep yourself hydrated when travelling, especially to places with limited access to clean water or in hot weather. Drink bottled or filtered water, carry a reusable water container, and avoid possibly contaminated liquids.

If dehydration symptoms persists for an extended period, seek medical attention properly.

7-Treatment of Diarrhea

The treatment of diarrhea depends upon the severity of the condition. Some of the general guidelines for the treatment are-

7.1- Electrolyte Replacement Therapy

Replace lost electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, and chloride, with fluids. ORS solutions are advised for treating dehydration brought on by diarrhea. They are specifically designed to offer a balanced combination of fluids and electrolytes.

7.2- Modification in Diet

Eat a plain, easily digested diet to reduce gastrointestinal discomfort. Consume short, frequent meals instead of foods heavy in fat, spice, or fiber since these might aggravate diarrhea. Reintroduce regular meals gradually, as tolerated.

7.3- Taking Probiotic Supplement

In certain situations, probiotics—beneficial bacteria that promote gut health—may help shorten the duration and lessen the intensity of infectious diarrhea. Take into account taking probiotic supplements or eating meals high in probiotics, including yogurt and fermented foods.

7.4- Monitoring Symptoms

Monitor your symptoms, such as the frequency, consistency, and presence of blood or mucus in your stools, fever, stomach discomfort, and indications of dehydration including thirst, dry mouth, and reduced urine production. If needed seek medical attention.

7.5- Medications

Medication may be recommended in some circumstances to treat the underlying cause of diarrhea or to control its symptoms. These might be antibiotics for bacterial infections or anti-diarrheal drugs (like loperamide) to lessen the frequency and consistency of stools.

8- Conclusion

It’s important to note that there are several reasons responsible for the occurrence of dehydration; one such reason is a gastrointestinal issue called diarrhea. Diarrhea-induced dehydration shows symptoms quite different from general dehydration. It can cause abdominal pain, cramps and blood in stool, while it also has some general symptoms, like fatigue, confusion, weakness and many more. There are various causes and symptoms of how diarrhoea causes dehydration, which are discussed above.

So, in case of severity of symptoms, it is necessary to take medical supervision, as dehydration is a treatable disorder, but ignorance of the symptoms might make it lethal!

Last Updated on April 30, 2024 by Gautam