10 signs of dehydration to watch out for

  • 29 Jan - 04 Feb, 2022
  • Mag The Weekly

It’s been drilled into you since you were a kid: You need to drink enough water. Something that’s often not included in that life lesson? How to tell if you are dehydrated.

While you probably do your best to keep the liquids coming, the signs of dehydration can easily sneak up on you, especially if you forget to load up on water after a really sweaty workout or when it’s especially hot or humid outside.

Our bodies need water and other fluids to function properly, and if you become dehydrated, some of these processes may not function normally. Severe dehydration can have dire consequences. After all, water typically makes up two-thirds of your bodyweight.

Ahead, we have compiled the dehydration symptoms to keep on your radar, because they’re not always super obvious. Read on:

Muscle cramps

Your body likes to maintain an optimal balance of fluids to ensure different parts, from your joints to your intestines, function properly.

Your muscles also require a certain amount of water to function well. When you’re dehydrated, your body will pull water out of that muscle tissue, along with electrolytes, which can lead to painful muscle cramps.

This is often due to a ??sodium deficit in the body. Exertional heat cramping, or full-body cramping, may be related to sodium depletion and fluid loss especially in individuals who are ‘salty sweaters’.


The exact reason why dehydration sometimes causes a headache isn’t known. One theory is that dehydration alone doesn’t directly lead to headaches but may exacerbate underlying conditions like migraine. There’s also potentially a slight, temporary contraction of the brain due to low hydration levels, which doesn’t necessarily feel great.

Low energy and fatigue

When you’re dehydrated, your blood vessels contract and your body tries to pull fluid to more centrally located organs, like your heart and brain, to keep them running properly. This means the rest of your body may start to operate at a slower pace, making you feel sluggish and tired. Fatigue is your body noticing it doesn’t have an optimal state.


The low blood pressure that comes with dehydration can also make you feel woozy. A lower level of electrolytes can also cause dizziness or a lightheaded feeling.

Dry mouth, lips, or skin

Remember, dehydration shifts your body into survival mode, so it tries to shuttle water to the areas where it’s most needed. Water is diverted from nonvital organs such as the skin to more vital ones like the heart, brain, and kidneys. As a result, places like your mouth and lips might start to feel really dry.

Bad breath

Saliva has bacteria-fighting properties. When you’re dehydrated, your saliva levels go down because your body is using fluids where it needs it the most, meaning your mouth’s ability to fight odor-causing germs may not be as efficient. If you notice that you suddenly have bad breath for no reason, try drinking more water regularly. Fixing the dry mouth alone may freshen things up.


Feeling briefly confused or out of it can simply mean you need a bit more sleep. But if you haven’t had enough water, it can also be a tip-off that you’re dehydrated. Confusion is usually not something that comes on suddenly unless you’re working up a sweat on a hot day, so if it happens rapidly and is paired with other concerning symptoms like a fast pulse, fever, slow or rapid breathing, or uncontrolled shivering, it’s best to seek immediate medical attention.

Sudden hunger or food cravings

Your liver needs water to function properly. When it doesn’t get it, it signals to your brain that you need fuel. Instead of craving water, though, it tends to make you think you’re hungry, even if you’ve had plenty of food to eat.

Skin that doesn’t bounce back

If you grab the skin on the back of your hand, pull it up, and let it go, it should quickly snap back into place. But this doesn’t usually happen with people who are dehydrated. If it stays tented or resumes its shape more slowly than usual, that’s a really good sign of being dehydrated. Without enough moisture, your skin loses some of the elasticity it needs to snap back.

Lack of sweat

It seems that this would be a sign that you’re not dehydrated, but it can be a marker of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. This typically happens because your volumes of fluid are so low that the body is trying to hold on to what you have. If this happens to you, seek medical attention immediately, as heat-related illness can cause permanent disability or even death in severe circumstances.