We’re all aware of the obvious signs of dehydration—yellow pee, feeling thirsty, and dry mouth—but what about the less obvious ones, like acting strange? Experts say they’re equally important, if not more so because they can be a sign that your dehydration has progressed beyond normal levels like when you exercise vigorously without drinking enough water.

“Our bodies need water and other fluids to function properly, and if you become dehydrated, some of these processes may not function normally,” women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D., tells SELF. “Severe dehydration can have dire consequences.” Those consequences can include heat stroke or exhaustion, seizures, and even death in the most extreme cases, according to Mayo Clinic.

But drinking enough water is harder than it sounds, especially during the summer. “It’s challenging to stay hydrated, even when you’re healthy,” Sanford Vieder, D.O., medical director of Lakes Urgent Care in West Bloomfield and Livonia, Michigan, tells SELF. “The vast majority of us don’t drink as much water as we should.” For women, that means drinking around 9 cups of fluids every day, according to Mayo Clinic (mostly water is best, but that recommendation includes all fluids). And, if you’re sweating a lot, you’ll probably need more.

So, what are those less obvious signs of dehydration? Experts break them down:

1. You have bad breath.

This seems weird, but bear with us here. Saliva has bacteria-fighting properties, Wider explains. If you’re dehydrated, your saliva levels go down and so does your mouth’s ability to fight odor-causing germs. If you notice that you suddenly have bad breath for no reason, try drinking more water regularly. That alone may clear it up.

2. You feel confused.

Feeling confused or out of it can be a sign of a few things. But if you haven’t had a lot to drink recently, it can definitely be a tip-off that you’re dehydrated, Vieder says. It’s usually not something that comes on suddenly, unless you’re working up a sweat on a hot day, he adds.

3. You suddenly have food cravings.

Your liver needs water to function properly. When it doesn’t get it, it signals to your brain that you need fuel, Wider says. Instead of craving water, though, it tends to make you think you’re hungry, causing food cravings.

4. Your skin doesn’t bounce back.

If you grab the skin on the back of your hand, pull it up, and let it go, it should quickly snap back into place. But this doesn’t usually happen with people who are dehydrated. “If it stays tented [or resumes its shape more slowly than usual], that’s a really good sign of being dehydrated,” Vieder says. Without enough moisture, your skin loses some of the elasticity it needs to snap back.

5. You stop sweating.

It seems like this would be a sign that you’re not dehydrated, but Anthony J. Brutico, D.O., medical director of the Emergency Department at New Jersey’s Newton Medical Center, tells SELF it can be a marker that you have heat exhaustion or heat stroke. This typically happens because your “volumes of fluid are so low that the body is trying to hold on to what you have,” he explains. If this happens to you, you need to get help immediately and see a doctor or other medical professional.

Same goes if people say you’re not acting like yourself, you feel like you’re going to faint, or you actually have fainted. In those cases, Brutico recommends drinking liquid and heading to the ER to get evaluated. You may have reached a point where you need IV fluids to get rehydrated.

Even if you’re only experiencing the less severe symptoms of dehydration, it’s time to get some liquids in you ASAP. Vieder recommends having room-temperature liquids (your body takes longer to absorb cold fluids) and aiming to drink water or a sports drink with electrolytes. And take a pass on soda—Vieder says it can potentially further dehydrate you. Need some help meeting your daily hydration goals? Here are 12 easy ways to drink more water.


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