5 Signs of Dehydration — Besides the Color of Your Pee

How do you know if you're not drinking enough water? From brain drain to gnarly breath, see the most common signs of dehydration.

person drinking water from a glass close-up
Getty Images/Claudia Miranda/EyeEm.

Forgetting to drink water sounds almost as silly as forgetting to breathe, yet there's a dehydration epidemic, according to a 2015 study. Researchers found that over half of the 4,000 kids studied weren't drinking enough water, with 25 percent saying they didn't drink any water during the day. And this isn't just a kid problem: Adults might be even worse at drinking the daily recommendation of water. Up to 75 percent of the population could be chronically dehydrated...yikes.

Being a little low on water won't kill you, but it can decrease muscle strength, as well as your aerobic and anaerobic abilities, says Corinne Dobbas, M.D., R.D. In your day-to-day life, dehydration can cause poor mental performance, headaches, and make you feel sluggish, she says.

So how do you know if you're drinking enough H2O? For starters, your urine should be pale yellow or very clear, says Dr. Dobbas. (However, if you aren't drinking a bunch of water and maybe feeling dehydrated but urine is clear when you check the toilet bowl, it might be a sign of a kidney issue or diabetes, per the Cleveland Clinic.)

Besides rushing to the bathroom, there are several less obvious signs your water tank needs a refuel that don't involve checking before you flush. Here, five of the biggest signs of dehydration to watch out for, other than the shade of your pee.

Dehydration Sign #1: You're Hungry

When your body wants a drink, it's not picky about where that water comes from and will happily accept food sources as well as a glass of plain water. That's why many people assume they're hungry when they start to feel weak and tired, explains Dr. Dobbas. But it's harder to get hydrated through food, which is why you might want to try drinking a glass of water before eating to see if that takes care of your "hunger," she advises. (If it doesn't, try one of these filling snacks with lots of protein.)

Dehydration Sign #2: Your Breath Reeks

When there isn't enough water in your system, your salivary glands can't do their job, and therefore produce less saliva. Less spit means more bacteria in your mouth since saliva is responsible for washing away bacteria and leftover food particles. All that extra bacteria setting up camp means stinky breath — not to mention an upped risk of oral health problems.

Dehydration Sign #3: You're Grouchy

A bad mood may start with your water levels, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition. Scientists found that young women who were just one percent dehydrated reported feeling more anger, depression, annoyance, and frustration than women who drank enough water during a lab test.

Dehydration Sign #4: You're a Little Fuzzy

That afternoon brain drain may be your body crying for water, according to a study in the British Journal of Nutrition. Researchers found that people who were mildly dehydrated during the experiment performed worse on cognitive tasks and reported feelings of wanting to give up and an inability to make decisions.

Dehydration Sign #5: Your Head Is Pounding

That same study that found that dehydration increased moodiness in women also found an increase in headaches in the same participants. The researchers added that dropping water levels could decrease the amount of fluid surrounding the brain in the skull, giving it less padding and protection against even mild bumps and movement. (BRB, chugging water at the thought of that.)

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