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5 Gadgets That Detect Dehydration

What’s the best way to diagnose dehydration? Thirst is one of the first that comes to mind for many people. But unfortunately, when you feel thirsty, you might already be dehydrated. Another option is to monitor urine color – the darker your urine, the more dehydrated you might be.

But what if there was a more accurate way? That might not be too far off in the future. Engineers around the world are developing gadgets – from watches that use lights, to 34-cent diaper pads – that can quickly detect dehydration. Currently, the majority are still in development. But it’s likely, in a few years, some of these futuristic dehydration monitors will be available at the pharmacy:


1.     A Dehydration-Detecting Diaper Pad: Earlier this year, a team of University of California, Riverside engineering students developed an award-winning invention: The Diaper Detective. It’s a low-cost sensor that can be placed in a diaper and detect when infants are dehydrated or have a bacterial infection. Essentially, the Diaper Detective works similar to a pregnancy test, measuring chemicals in the urine, and it can be customized to detect other diseases. The most impressive fact? It costs just 34 cents to make.

2.     A Wearable, Smart-Phone-Enabled Patch: Here’s one that could be particularly useful for athletes, soldiers and occupational athletes: The Perspiration Detective. This is a small patch – similar in size to nicotine patches – that monitors sweat to determine hydration status. The patch, which was developed by researchers at the University of Cincinnati, measures sodium and chloride levels in sweat and small iconic solutes that are released when we’re dehydrated. Here’s the kicker: The patch can then transmit all that information to a mobile device.

3.     A Wrist-worn Sensor That Uses Tiny Needles: Sandia National Laboratories – a Lockheed Martin company – has been developing a sensor, worn on the wrist, that’s capable of detecting dehydration using tiny, microscopic needles. That’s right. Here’s how it works: The sensor uses the needles, which are non-invasive due to their size, to measure interstitial fluid – the fluid in between your cells. When we’re dehydrated, interstitial fluid drops. The sensor detects these drops and alerts those wearing the sensor.

4.     A Dehydration Alerting Urinal:  What if a urinal could tell you instantly if you’re dehydrated? That might be possible with the Hydralert, a device developed by researchers at Flinders University in South Australia. The Hydralert is a small device that is placed in urinals, and it measures chemical levels in urine to detect dehydration. This one is set to undergo clinical trials in the near future.

5.     A Watch That Measures Dehydration Using Light: Researchers are working on two watch prototypes that measure blood glucose by casting non-invasive light patterns through the skin. Essentially, the light measures blood flow and can detect minute changes in blood flow patterns. These changes, in turn, offer quite a bit of information about hydration. And the sensors are just made of a small laser, camera and magnet – which could all fit perfectly in a wristwatch.

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