Preventing Dehydration During Cancer Treatment

Author: OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed:

The Importance of Fluids

Dehydration is when you have less fluid in your body than you should. Two-thirds of your body is water and it is important to replenish this water in your body because staying hydrated helps your body work correctly. Proper hydration regulates your body temperature and helps remove waste and toxins, among many other functions. Even mild dehydration can cause some of the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Feeling light-headed.
  • Headaches.
  • Irritability.
  • Constipation.
  • Nausea.

Tips to Avoid Dehydration

You should have about 64 ounces of fluid a day unless you are told otherwise by your provider. If you have a heart condition you may be instructed to drink less. In some cases the amount of fluid you should take in each day depends on your weight. If you have a fever, diarrhea or vomiting you will need more fluids to replace fluids that are lost. Thirst is not always a good indicator of how well you are hydrated. Keep track of the fluids you drink to make sure you are getting enough fluids to stay hydrated.

Good Sources of Liquids to Keep Hydrated

All food contains some fluid. Only those that are liquid at room temperature should be counted toward your daily fluid goal. The following is a list of foods and beverages that can be counted toward your fluid goal:

  • Water.
  • Milk.
  • Coffee*.
  • Tea*.
  • Fruit or vegetable juice.
  • Soda*.
  • Gatorade®.
  • Soup and broth.
  • Gelatin.
  • Ice cream.
  • Water ice. Popsicles.
  • Sorbets.
  • Nutritional supplements, such as Boost or Ensure.
  • Hot chocolate.
  • Milkshakes.
  • Ice cubes and ice chips.

* Drinks that contain caffeine will contribute to fluid loss. Use decaffeinated versions of these drinks instead.

If you do not like to drink plain water, try carbonated waters, flavored waters, add a slice of lemon or lime, or mix water with fruit juice.

If you have severe vomiting and can't keep fluids down, try sucking on ice cubes and ice chips, and taking small sips of fluids frequently. This will be better tolerated than drinking 6 or 8 ounces at one time.

When to Contact Your Care Team

Even when following your care provider's advice, you may become dehydrated. If this occurs, your care provider may recommend IV fluids. If dehydration is being caused by vomiting or diarrhea then those side effects should be treated. If you experience the following symptoms of dehydration, contact your care team right away:

  • Feeling very thirsty or thirst that doesn't stop when you drink.
  • Less frequent urination.
  • Dark-colored urine.
  • A loss of more than 5% of body weight within one week.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Increased fatigue.

Conversions to Help You Track Fluid Intake

  • 1 quart = 4 cups = 32 ounces = 960ml
  • 1 pint = 2 cups = 16 ounces = 480 ml
  • 1 cup = 8 ounces = 240 ml
  • 1/2 cup = 4 ounces = 120 ml
  • 1/4 cup = 2 ounces = 60 ml

If at any point you are having trouble taking in as much fluid as you should or you are having trouble staying hydrated, you should talk with your care team. 

References

Medline Plus. Dehydration

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