Dehydration occurs when you lose more fluids than your body takes in. That causes your body to not have enough water to carry out its normal functions. Diarrhea, vomiting, fever or excessive sweating, all of which are side effects of many cancer treatments, can cause dehydration. Dehydration can lead to severe complications, such as seizures, swelling of the brain, kidney failure, shock, coma and even death.
Signs and symptoms of dehydration include:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Decrease in urination
- Dark yellow- or amber-colored urine
- Decreased skin elasticity
- Dry mouth and mucous membranes (lips, gums, nostrils)
- Low blood pressure
The amount of fluid a person needs a day varies depending on several factors, including their age and weight. A simple guideline for radiation therapy patients is that an adult under the age of 65 needs 30 milliliters of fluid per pound of weight, while a person over the age of 65 needs 25 to 30 milliliters of fluid per pound of weight.
Water is the best fluid to drink. Decaffeinated tea, juices, milk and oral supplements will also help you stay hydrated. Soups, Jell-O and ice cream also count because they become liquid after you eat them.
If you are not able to consume enough fluids, contact your care center immediately to prevent serious complications. Your doctor may order IV fluids given through a vein in your arm to replace the fluids you are not able to take in by mouth.