Do you know what the most common type of pain is? It’s a headache. Experts estimate that more than 9 out of 10 adults have a headache at some point in life.

Thus, it’s somewhat rare to never have a headache. But, how can you decrease your chance of getting a headache? One approach is to stop the cycle of dehydration and headaches.

Continue reading to learn more about dehydration and its connection to headaches.

What Is Dehydration?

About 60% to 75% of our body weight, depending on age, is due to water. Water is critical to the proper functioning of the body.

When your body loses more fluid than it takes in, a fluid imbalance results called dehydration. Dehydration is more dangerous for the very young and very old. Dehydration can range from mild to life-threatening.

How Are Dehydration and Headaches Related?

When the body loses fluid, it also loses electrolytes. Signs and symptoms of dehydration include feeling tired or having low energy, irritability, dizziness, and a dry mouth.

You may notice that your urine is dark yellow and decreased urination. Thirst may or may not be present with dehydration.

This imbalance of fluids and electrolytes may result in headaches. This occurs with mild to moderate dehydration.

Scientists have proposed a theory that dehydration-related headache pain occurs in the meninges. The meninges are the three layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances affect the meninges’ function causing pain.

Risk Factors for Dehydration

Anyone can become dehydrated. Infants and children are more likely to have severe diarrhea and vomiting.

Infants have an increased surface area to volume area ratio. This makes them more vulnerable to dehydration. They lose an increased proportion of fluid in the presence of high fever or burns.

Also, young children may not be able to tell you when they feel thirsty. They often can’t get something to drink for themselves.

Older adults normally have lower fluid volumes reserves in their bodies. There may be a decreased awareness of thirst. Older individuals may have chronic illnesses including diabetes and dementia.

When blood sugar is out of the normal range, electrolyte imbalances occur. This alters the body’s fluid balance.

Diabetics are also at increased risk of kidney disease. The kidneys play a significant role in maintaining fluid and electrolyte balances.

Individuals with dementia or decreased mobility are at risk for dehydration. This occurs when they aren’t independent enough to manage their own hydration.

Even minor problems such as a sore throat or cold sores may result in decreased fluid intake due to pain. Medications can increase dehydration by “drying up” mucus/body fluids and altering urination patterns.

Burn victims have an increased risk due to the loss of the protective skin barrier. This results in loss of body heat and fluid through the injured skin.


Preventing Dehydration

The best way to prevent dehydration is by drinking water. Try to drink water when you wake up, before and after meals, and before bed. Drinking water in between meals is also beneficial.

Foods with high fluid content also prevents dehydration. Examples include fruits, vegetables, soups, and meats. Foods dipped in water or milk absorb these fluids and help with hydration.

You need to take additional precautions to prevent dehydration in certain situations.


It’s best to begin hydrating the day before you plan to exercise. When you exercise, double the amount of fluid intake. Drink one or two glasses of water, or sports drinks before, during, and after the workout.

Vomiting or Diarrhea

As discussed, children and the elderly are at increased risk for dehydration due to diarrhea and vomiting. Yet, persons of any age can become dehydrated as a result of severe vomiting and diarrhea that prevents the intake of fluids.

Hot or Cold Weather

Working or exercising outside in hot, humid weather increases the risk of dehydration and heat illnesses. Sweat normally functions to cool the body by evaporating from the skin. This evaporation is slowed or stopped in high humidity.

When you can’t evaporate your sweat, your body temperature increases and your body needs more fluids. Likewise, if you are sweating profusely, you can lose body fluids along with the increased body temperature. This increases your risk of dehydration.

Many times, the air becomes very dry when the weather is cold. This is even truer at high altitudes. Thus, it’s important to maintain a regular hydration regimen when outside in the heat or cold.


If you are sick with illnesses such as influenza, bronchitis, or bladder infection, you need to increase your fluid intake. Often times, individuals do not feel like eating or drinking when they are ill. The body needs extra fluids to help with the healing process.

When Should You See a Physician?

Knowing when to call your physician is important to prevent serious complications. The following are examples of when you should contact the physician.

For infants and young children, call if you notice:

  • A dry tongue and mouth
  • Lack of tears when crying
  • No wet diapers for 3 hours or more
  • Sunken eyes and cheeks
  • A sunken soft spot on the skull of an infant
  • Unusual irritability or lack of energy

In adults, call for:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Decreased urination
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

For individuals of any age, call the doctor if diarrhea lasts 24 hours or longer. Call immediately if the person becomes disoriented or has difficulty staying awake. Other important concerns include the inability to keep fluids down and bloody or black bowel movements.

Are You Concerned About Healthy Lifestyles?

Do you experience limitations in your daily activities due to dehydration and headaches? Following the information in this article can help you stay in the game.

Our website focuses on health and fitness for women. We have articles about wellness, health, and fitness. You will even find new recipes to spice up your meal planning. Continue reading more articles like this one on our site today.

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