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What is Hypertonic Dehydration?

This article will discuss what hypertonic dehydration is, how it compares to other types of dehydration, and how to correct it.

What is hypertonic dehydration?

Hypertonic dehydration happens when your body’s water and salt levels are not balanced properly. The prefix “hyper” is Greek for “beyond” or “over.” Hypertonic dehydration is caused by the loss of too much water and the retention of too much salt in the fluid between your cells. Essentially, your body has too much salt but not enough water. The salt in your body attracts water and vice versa.

You are at high risk for hypertonic dehydration if you are experiencing diarrhea, vomiting, or a high fever. Not drinking enough water, sweating too much, and taking diuretic drugs can also cause an imbalance of water and salt levels, leading to hypertonic dehydration. If you have diabetes insipidus or diabetes mellitus, you are more likely to experience hypertonic dehydration.

How does it compare to other types of dehydration?

There are a few other types of dehydration in addition to hypertonic dehydration.

Hypotonic dehydration happens when you have an adequate amount of water in your body, but you have lost too much salt. “Hypo” means “under” or “below” in Greek. All IV fluids are hypotonic by necessity because these fluids need to be pulled into your body’s cells to be effective. There is more salt and solute in your cells. Water is attracted by salt, so IV fluids are hypotonic – they need to contain low levels of salt to be pulled into and bond with the salt in your cells.

Isotonic dehydration happens when you have lost the same amount of salt as the water you have lost. In Greek, “iso” means “equal” or “the same.” Isotonic solutions have equal amounts of salt and solute as the solutions around them. You are considered officially well-hydrated if your body reaches an isotonic level, as it is a perfect balance of water and salt.

How can I correct hypertonic dehydration?

Most cases of “regular” dehydration can be treated at home, but if you have hypertonic dehydration, you will need medical care.

Firstly, your doctor may prescribe you oral rehydration salts. This may seem counterintuitive – if I already have too much salt in my system, why do I need more salt? Oral rehydration salts are a mix of sugar and salts. You need salt and water together so that your brain will not begin to swell.

If for some reason, you can’t do the oral therapy or if it does not work, you may need intravenous (IV) treatment. It will slowly lower your sodium levels.

Your healthcare professional may keep track of your weight, how much you urinate, and your serum electrolyte levels to make sure the fluids are entering your system at an appropriate rate.

Although not specifically formulated to treat dehydration, in-home IV treatments can effectively regulate your salt and fluid levels. A medical team member can administer your treatment for you and stay with you during your course of treatment to ensure everything goes smoothly.

IV treatment works faster than any oral remedy does. This is because the fluids in the IV bag go through a tube that goes into your vein and, as a result, enters directly into your bloodstream. Oral rehydration options need to pass through your digestive system before they can affect your body, and digestion takes hours.

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