Contributing Factors

Water is lost through a variety of avenues, including urine, feces, breath, and sweat. In illness or disease, excessive diuresis, diarrhea, and/or vomiting are the main pathways of water loss. During exercise or heat exposure, sweating is the primary mechanism for dehydration. Significant water loss may be stimulated by cold- or altitude-induced diuresis. Additionally, some prescription drugs and over-the-counter herbal products have diuretic effects that exacerbate water loss. Under normal conditions, the body regulates its water contents tightly over a 24-h period (approximately ±200 ml); however, over short periods, water loss can significantly exceed water gain (Figure 3).

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