Dehydration is a condition that happens when your body loses more fluid than you take in. Staying hydrated is very important while you're receiving breast cancer treatment.

Dehydration is a condition that happens when your body loses more fluid than you take in. This means that your body doesn't have enough water and other fluids to function normally.

The symptoms of mild dehydration are:

  • dry, sticky mouth

  • sleepiness

  • feeling thirsty

  • decreased urine output

  • few or no tears when crying

  • headache

  • dizziness

Severe dehydration, which is considered a medical emergency can cause:

  • extreme thirst

  • extreme fatigue

  • irritability or confusion

  • lack of sweating

  • sunken eyes

  • low blood pressure

  • fever

Staying hydrated is very important while you're receiving breast cancer treatment. Chemotherapy (especially the medicine Xeloda [chemical name: capecitabine]) can cause dehydration. But other treatment side effects, such as vomiting and diarrhea, can cause you to become dehydrated, too.


Managing dehydration

Talk to your doctor immediately if you have any of the symptoms of severe dehydration. Together you can deal with the underlying cause of your dehydration.

Experts say that drinking 64-96 ounces of water a day will keep you hydrated. That sounds like a lot, but it's only about 8-12 glasses (8 ounces each) of water. And while this number has been questioned by some researchers, most doctors agree that most people don't drink enough water. So aim for 8 glasses. If you're having side effects such as diarrhea or vomiting because of your treatment, you may need to drink more than this. Talk to your doctor about how much water makes sense for you.

Don't rely on feeling thirsty to tell if you're getting enough water. You may not feel thirsty until you've already lost quite a bit of water, so try to drink throughout the day. An easy way to tell if you're getting enough water is to look at the color of your urine. If your urine is pale to clear, you're probably getting enough water. If it's dark, it's more concentrated, which means you are becoming dehydrated. Try to increase the amount of water and other liquids you drink. (Multivitamins can sometimes darken urine, so keep that in mind if you're taking one.)

Tips to stay hydrated:

  • Drink a lot. Water, pasteurized 100% fruit juices, milk, and low-sodium broth are good choices for staying hydrated while you're in treatment. If you're also trying to lose weight, keep in mind that juices have a lot of sugar and calories. You may want to drink water or seltzer instead (seltzer usually has no salt; club soda usually does).

  • Drink caffeine in moderation. Drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, colas, and some root beers, will increase your water intake. But caffeine acts as a diuretic, so it flushes water out of your system more than other drinks without caffeine. Don't rely on caffeinated beverages as your only source of water.

  • Eat foods with high water content. Liquid in your solid food counts toward your daily total. Some fruits and vegetables are more than 90% water. Cantaloupe, grapefruit, strawberries, watermelon, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce, sweet peppers, radishes, spinach, zucchini, and tomatoes are all at least 90% water. Low-sodium soups, popsicles, water ice, and gelatins are also high in water.

  • Add some citrus to your water. If you don't like drinking plain water, try adding lime, lemon, or orange slices to your water. You can also pour in a splash of fruit juice. Or try drinking carbonated water (known as club soda, seltzer, and fizzy water). Look for a brand WITHOUT added sugar or sodium.

  • Keep a glass of water close to you during the day and night to remind you to drink it.

If you do become mildly dehydrated:

  • Don't drink too much at once. Sip fluids slowly, gradually drinking more and more.

  • Suck on ice chips to keep your lips and mouth moist.

  • Eat foods that have a lot of fluids, such as watermelon or cucumbers.

  • Apply lip balm or salve if your lips are dry, and apply lotion to dry skin.

  • Fill a small cooler with clean ice and small bottles of water or juice and keep it near you so you can drink frequently.

— Last updated on July 27, 2022, 1:43 PM