12 early signs of dehydration to look out for this summer

As the temperature rises and the sun shines brighter, it's crucial to stay hydrated. Dehydration can creep up on us, especially during the scorching summer months, and recognising the early signs of dehydration is key to preventing more serious complications.

In this guide, we'll explore the subtle signs that your body may be lacking the hydration it craves. Whether you're lounging by the pool, hitting the hiking trails or simply enjoying outdoor activities, it's essential to keep a close eye on your body and listen to its signals.

So, grab a cool beverage, find a comfortable spot and let's dive in!

1. Bad breath

Bad breath isn’t just caused by eating a smelly food like garlic. It can also be one of the early symptoms of dehydration, too!

When our bodies lack hydration, you might experience a dry mouth, and with dryness comes a decrease in saliva production. Saliva is not only responsible for keeping our mouths moist, but it also helps wash away odour-causing bacteria.

When saliva levels drop, those bacteria can thrive, leading to the dreaded phenomenon known as bad breath.

So, if you've noticed that your breath has taken on a less-than-pleasant aroma, it may be a gentle nudge from your body to remind you to drink more water.

Increasing your water intake can help rehydrate your mouth, allowing saliva production to get back on track and freshen your breath.

2. Sugar cravings

When those sugar cravings hit, it's tempting to reach for a sweet treat. But did you know that these cravings can sometimes be a sneaky sign of dehydration?

Yes, your body has its own way of letting you know it's thirsty!

Dehydration can disrupt the balance of electrolytes in your body, specifically sodium and glucose. As your body loses water, the concentration of these substances can become imbalanced, triggering those intense sugar cravings.

It's your body's way of trying to restore that balance and get the fluid it needs.

Next time you find yourself longing for a sugary fix, consider reaching for a glass of water instead. Drinking plenty of fluids helps rehydrate your body and can satisfy those cravings naturally, without the added sugar.

3. Dry skin

Dehydration signs and symptoms aren’t always obvious. Sometimes, you have to look outward and to your body’s largest organ - your skin.

If you’re dehydrated (which usually happens after exercise or during hot weather!) then your skin might be feeling tight, flaky or lacking its usual healthy glow.

But before you reach for that moisturiser, here's a little secret - it might not just be your skincare routine that needs attention. Dry skin can be one of the mild symptoms of dehydration.

When you don't drink a good amount of fluid, your body struggles to retain moisture, and your skin is often the first to show it. Inadequate hydration can disrupt the natural balance of oils and water within your skin, leading to dryness, roughness and even itching.

Fear not! The solution might be as simple as drinking more water to replace the lost fluids.

By hydrating your body from the inside out, you can help replenish your skin's moisture levels.

4. Headaches

The pounding sensation in your temples, the dull ache at the base of your skull - we've all experienced those dreaded headaches.

But have you simply had one-too-many alcoholic drinks in the garden, or is your body simply lashing out due to a lack of hydration?

Your body's water levels play a significant role in maintaining proper blood flow and keeping your brain happy.

When you're dehydrated, your body tries to conserve water by narrowing blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the brain. This decrease in blood circulation can lead to headaches and migraines.

To prevent dehydration, just grab a glass of water! Staying hydrated can help restore blood flow to the brain, soothing those throbbing pains and providing some much-needed relief.

So, the next time a headache hits, don't reach for the painkillers right away; try hydrating first and see if your body responds positively.

Man feeling dehydrated in the park

5. Light-headedness

You know that moment when you stand up too quickly and suddenly everything starts spinning?

Well, if you're experiencing frequent bouts of light-headedness, dehydration might be the reason behind it.

Your body relies on proper hydration to maintain blood pressure and keep everything in balance. When you're dehydrated, your blood volume decreases, which can lead to a drop in blood pressure.

This sudden decrease can cause light-headedness. It's not the most pleasant experience, but luckily, there's a simple solution—drink fluids!

Replenishing your body with water can help restore proper blood volume and regulate your blood pressure, effectively combating those light-headed spells.

6. Dry eyes

Ever experienced that annoying, scratchy feeling in your eyes, as if there's a tiny desert in there? Dehydration could be playing a role in those dry eye episodes!

Your eyes rely on moisture to stay lubricated and comfortable. When you're dehydrated, your body struggles to produce enough tears, leading to dryness, redness and irritation.

Drinking enough water can help replenish your body's water content, including the moisture your eyes need.

So, the next time your eyes feel like the Sahara, grab a tall glass of water instead of rubbing and aggravating them further.

7. White tongue

Having a white tongue sounds unusual, but it’s most likely dehydration’s early symptom to urge you to hydrate.

As we mentioned earlier, when your saliva production decreases, it leaves your mouth dry and prone to bacterial overgrowth. As a result, a whitish coating can develop on your tongue.

8. A fever or chills

Dehydration can affect your body's temperature regulation system, leaving you feeling hot and cold at the same time.

When you're dehydrated, your body struggles to cool itself down. This can lead to an imbalance in your internal thermometer, causing your body temperature to rise, resulting in a fever.

On the flip side, dehydration can also cause something known as vasoconstriction, where your blood vessels narrow to conserve heat, making you feel chilly and giving you the shivers.

However, it’s important to note that a fever can be caused by many things, including an infection or illness. It’s important to seek medical attention in order to understand the cause of your fever.

9. Muscular cramps

Muscular cramps can be painful, and they typically creep up on you when you least expect it.

Dehydration causes an electrolyte imbalance in the body, specifically a decrease in important minerals like potassium, magnesium and sodium.

These minerals are essential in supporting muscle function, and when their levels are off, it can lead to muscle cramps and spasms.

Elderly woman feeling dehydrated

10. Fatigue

Are you feeling drained and drowsy? When your body isn’t hydrated, it can zap your energy levels and leave you feeling like you’ve run a marathon!

Dehydration affects various bodily functions, including blood flow and oxygen delivery. When you're dehydrated, your body has to work harder to circulate oxygen and nutrients to your cells, leading to a drop in energy levels.

Hydrating your body can help replenish fluid levels and support the efficient transport of oxygen and nutrients, giving you the energy boost you need to conquer the day.

11. Confusion

When your body is lacking proper hydration, it can leave you feeling disoriented and confused. This is more common in elderly people, which we’ll discuss in further detail down below.

Dehydration can impact cognitive function and hinder your ability to think clearly. Your brain relies on water and electrolytes to function as it should.

When you're dehydrated, this delicate balance gets disrupted, leading to confusion, poor concentration and difficulty making decisions. Always drink small amounts of water throughout the day to avoid the risk of dehydration.

12. Dark urine

Now, let's talk about a rather personal matter - urine. Specifically, dark urine. We know, it's not the most glamorous topic, but it's an important indicator of your hydration levels.

So, pay attention to the colour of your urine because it can reveal a lot!

When you're adequately hydrated, your urine tends to have a pale, light yellow colour. However, when you're dehydrated, your body holds onto as much water as possible, resulting in more concentrated urine. This concentration can give your urine a darker, amber-like hue, like a deep honey.

So, if you notice that your urine resembles a darker shade of yellow or amber, it's a sign that your body is in need of more hydration.

Noticing the signs of dehydration in vulnerable people

Vulnerable people, like children or the elderly, will likely show the early signs and symptoms of dehydration as mentioned above, but there are other signs you could miss.


Dehydration can affect children just as it does adults, and it's important for parents and caregivers to be on the lookout for the signs.

One of the first signs to watch out for is increased thirst. If your child is constantly asking for something to drink or seems excessively thirsty, it could be an indication that their body is in need of more fluids.

Another sign to keep an eye on is a decrease in urination. If your child is not urinating as frequently or their urine appears darker in colour, it could be a sign of dehydration. So, take a peek at their diapers or ask them about their bathroom trips to get a sense of their urine output.

Pay attention to their behaviour and energy levels, too. Dehydration can make children feel tired, lethargic and irritable. If you notice that your child is unusually cranky, lacking energy or seems less active than usual, it may be time to encourage them to drink up.

Dry lips and mouth can also be telltale signs of dehydration. Keep an eye out for chapped lips or a sticky mouth. These are indicators that your child's body needs more fluids to stay properly hydrated.

In younger children, a sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on top of the baby's head) can be a sign of dehydration. If you notice that the fontanelle appears sunken or depressed, it's essential to ensure your little one gets enough fluids.

Encourage them to drink water throughout the day, offer hydrating foods like fruits and vegetables, or more appealing fluid options like fruit juice.

Be mindful of their fluid intake, especially during hot weather or physical activity.

The elderly

As we age, our bodies undergo various changes, including a decreased ability to retain water and regulate hydration levels. This makes the elderly population more susceptible to dehydration.

One of the key signs to watch out for is increased thirst. If you notice that they’re frequently asking for something to drink or they seem unusually parched, it could be an indication that their body is in need of more fluids.

If their mouth appears dry or their lips seem cracked, it may be a sign that their body is lacking sufficient moisture. Pay attention to their urine output and colour as well.

Changes in mental status or confusion can also be signs of dehydration in the elderly. If you notice that they seem confused, disoriented or experience changes in their cognitive function, it's important to consider dehydration as a possible cause. Encourage them to drink fluids and seek medical attention if the confusion persists.

Be mindful of their overall energy levels and physical wellbeing. Dehydration can make the elderly feel weak, fatigued and dizzy.

Man drinking water
There you have it, a comprehensive guide to spotting the early signs of dehydration to look out for this summer. We've covered everything from the obvious to the not-so-obvious clues that your body is craving hydration.

By being aware of these signs, you can take proactive steps to keep yourself and your loved ones properly hydrated, especially during the hot summer months.

Remember, hydration is not just about quenching your thirst - it's about ensuring that your body functions as it should. From your brain to your muscles, every system relies on adequate hydration to keep you feeling your best.

Don't underestimate the power of a simple glass of water!

Alexandra Moses - Medical Content Writer
James O'Loan - CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist
James O'Loan , CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist on 14 June 2023
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