The importance of hydration

Dehydration is a common side effect to cancer treatment, due to vomiting, fevers and a range of medicines that can cause excessive urination. Keeping hydrated during treatment is highly important, as this is how the body flushes out the toxins from treatment. Flushing out toxins makes side effects less severe and lowers chances of missing or delaying treatment. 

Benefits of being Hydrated:

  • Regulates body temperature
  • Keeps joints lubricated
  • Prevents infections
  • Delivers nutrients to cells 
  • Keeps organs functioning probably
  • Improves sleep quality 
  • Improves cognition and mood
  • Helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure
  • Keeps skin healthy

However, maintaining hydration may be a challenge. Loss of appetite and changes to the way things taste are common, which can affect how much you eat and drink, contributing to dehydration.

Certain medications may also play a role. For example, several chemotherapy drugs are designed to increase urination, so taking them may put you at increased risk. Knowing the signs of dehydration can help to keep you or your loved one safe.  

Signs of Dehydration:


Fatigue or exhaustion
Weakness or light-headedness
Dizziness or feeling faint

Moderate  Dark yellow urine
Decrease in urination
Dry skin and lips
 Severe Nausea and vomiting
Extreme thirst 

Unable to sweat
Disorientation or confusion
Rapid heartbeat
Low blood pressure


If you experience symptoms of dehydration, contact your care team immediately to prevent serious complications. Severe dehydration may require hospitalisation and treatment with IV fluids and electrolytes to restore the body’s fluid balance. But even mild dehydration may disrupt your cancer treatment plan, since some drugs can only be safely given if your body is adequately hydrated. If you’re able, increase your fluid intake a little bit at a time and keep track of what you’re drinking.

Follow these steps to help rehydrate after being sick:

Once vomiting has stopped for an hour, try drinking 30ml of liquid every 20 minutes for one hour. 

If you do not have any more vomiting, increase the amount to 240ml during the second hour. 


When feeling better, try to begin eating soups, mild foods and plenty of liquids until symptoms are gone for 12 to 48 hours. 


What to do if water has a metallic taste 

Water may have a metallic taste during treatment, which can make it difficult to rehydrate, but there are many ways to enhance the flavour. Try adding fresh ginger, mint, cucumber or citrus slices, berries or a splash of fruit juice to give your water subtle flavour. Although you get most of the fluid you need from drinks, some comes from the foods you eat, such as soups, stews, fruit, vegetables and even yoghurts. 

Mixing up your routine with a variety of beverages can also help stop you making a negative response to particular drinks and decrease nausea. Sparkling water, smoothies, juices, milk, tea and even coffee count toward your daily fluid goal. It’s important to limit caffeine and alcohol though, as this may increase urination and loss of sodium, making it more difficult to keep your body hydrated.

Tips to keep you hydrated throughout the day: 

Start when you wake up
Your body needs rehydrating after 6-8 hours of sleep.
Reusable water bottle This makes it easier to drink sips throughout the day instead of trying to chug large amounts before bedtime, which can disrupt sleep.
Full a jug with your daily consumption
Keep it in your fridge or near you as a reminder.
Use a filtered water jug or filter  Filters may improve the taste of tap water by reducing chlorine and other minerals. 
Track your intake Tracking your fluid intake with a log is a great way to make sure you are meeting your needs.
Make it a habit
Make it a habit to drink at least ten 8-ounce (240ml) glasses of fluid every day.
Suck on ice  If drinking or eating isn't appealing, try sucking on ice cubes or lollies. 
Try a range of foods Watermelon, grapes, cucumber, oranges and strawberries are easier to eat when feeling sick. 


For more safety tips read - 'Chemotherapy Safety in the Home'