Signs & Symptoms of Severe Dehydration in Adults

Updated July 19, 2017

Severe dehydration in adults is a medical emergency, but luckily it can be prevented by drinking adequate amounts of fluids, which is especially important for ill and elderly adults. Anyone who is experiencing any of the signs and symptoms of severe dehydration should seek emergency medical treatment as soon as possible.

Altered Behavior

Adults who are severely dehydrated will often appear irritable or confused, which can sometimes be mistaken for the effects of ageing. So when mood changes are accompanied by other dehydration symptoms it should not be assumed that irritability and confusion are occurring because of senility. In severe cases of dehydration, delirium and unconsciousness can occur.


Someone who is severely dehydrated has very dry skin and mucous membranes and a dry mouth. Their skin lacks elasticity and does not return to normal after being pinched into a fold. They suffer from extreme thirst and may not seem to be able to get enough to drink. Severely dehydrated adults also have difficulty sweating.


Severely dehydrated adults also have difficulty urinating, producing very dark liquid that may have a strong odour.

Vital Signs

Warning signs include a rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure and a weak, rapid pulse.


A person who is severely dehydrated no longer has enough fluid in their body to sustain their vital organs, so without emergency medical treatment death can occur.

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About the Author

Leigh Walker has been working as a writer since 1995. She serves as a ghostwriter for many online clients creating website content, e-books and newsletters. She works as a title flagger and writer for Demand Studios, primarily writing home and garden pieces for and Walker pursued an English major/psychology minor at Pellissippi State.