Causes and Symptoms of Dehydration

The human body is comprised of over 60% water. Exposure to hot environments and/or strenuous activity leads to sweating. Without adequate hydration this will lead to dehydration and heat stress. There are various factors that can cause dehydration. The factors below may specifically contribute to an increased incidence of dehydration and heat stress on work sites.

Environmental Factors

These factors are also considered external factors and cannot be controlled, but only managed. It is important that safety coordinators in workplaces take all of the factors below into consideration for their hydration plan.

  • Ambient air temperature and humidity
  • Radiation from hot surfaces and machinery
  • Outdoor exposure
  • Confined spaces
  • Lack of mobility and access to cooler environments
  • Isolation from other people
  • Strenuous work over prolonged periods

Individual Factors

These factors differ per individual. Safety coordinators need to know the demographic attributes of their workforce and take the individual dehydration factors into account accordingly.

  • Lack of education about effective hydration and cooling
  • Involuntary dehydration
  • Older adults existing co-morbidities, in particular cardiovascular, respiratory and renal dysfunction
  • Lack of acclimatisation
  • No access to an adequate supply of water at regular intervals
  • No use of electrolytes
  • No access to shaded environments
  • Equipment that assists the body in cooling
  • Unpalatability of fluids discouraging fluid consumption

Symptoms of Dehydration

Performing strenuous work in hot and humid conditions can lead to dehydration, increased risk of injury and reduced productivity. The effects of dehydration resemble the effects of intoxication by alcohol, and collectively these effects can contribute to increased risk, and reduced productivity. Preventing Dehydration from occurring with electrolyte rehydration drinks like Sqwincher is usually the best solution.

Just 2% of dehydration = a 20% decrease in work and mental performance

The symptoms of dehydration depends on the severity of the dehydrated person. These symptoms are usually described as heat related illnesses and heat stress. There are five stages of dehydration and each stage consist of their own symptoms. These stages are:

  • Heat Rash
  • Heat Oedema
  • Heat Cramps
  • Heat Exhaustion
  • Heat Stroke

For a detailed overview of all the symptoms of dehydration is discussed in our blog ‘symptoms of heat illnesses and heat stress’

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