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How Long Can an Average Person Survive without Water?

by Dustin Cortright

Perhaps the most vital thing for your survival is proper hydration, as your body needs to consume enough water every day to function properly. The reason for this is your constant excreting of water through sweat and urination. Naturally, your body needs to replenish all of the fluids it had lost.

Without a healthy amount of water each day, you cannot live long enough. Without any water, you would only have a few days left.  Depending on certain factors, you may die of thirst even sooner.

Why the time varies

As you know, the medical term for not having enough water in your system is dehydration. Once dehydrated, your body cannot function the way it needs to. Water makes up 60% of your body weight, while it is 75% in children. Therefore, you cannot survive very long without it, but the exact time is not set. Factors that influence the survivability without any water are environmental conditions, activity level, age, health, weight, s*x, and food intake.

All of these contribute to how your body uses water, and how much it needs. In a hot climate, your body sweats more, meaning more water is required. During a fever, you lose water faster, especially if you are vomiting, or have diarrhea. While exercising, you have to replenish the water you lose through activity and sweating.

How Long Can an Average Person Survive without Water?

source: mentalfloss.com

When it comes to food, some of it has more water than others. Water consumption also comes through drinks like herbal tea and juice. However, beverages high in al*ohol and caffeine contribute to dehydration. A study found that you cannot survive for more than 8 to 21 days without food and water.

It is also familiar that water is much more essential for the body than food. There are people who went on hunger strikes without food, but who still drank water. They could live for a few months even, or longer.

Since water is so crucial, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends women to take 91 ounces of water daily, and men to drink 125 ounces every day, both through beverages and foods. This is the average recommended intake for healthy people, not too active, and who live in places with moderate climates.

What happens to your body if you do not drink water?

The body functions depend highly on your water intake, and it is capable of getting used to a certain amount. According to your feeling of thirst, you will give your body water. Therefore, if you always drink when thirsty, this should be enough for your specific body.

However, without enough water, your body’s systems start to change. The cells shrink without enough water, while the brain signals your body to urinate much less. This process occurs through your kidneys, and since they function like filters, they too need constant water to function properly. Without it, they use more energy and wear the tissue, and can even stop functioning. Other organs can also seize their functions.

Basically, without adequate water intake, your body temperature will not stay regulated, electrolytes will be unbalanced, your joints may not work properly, the brain might swell, and your blood pressure could both increase and decrease.

Does food intake affect this?

As established, food consumption can contribute to your water intake, up to 20% of your total water intake on a daily basis actually. Therefore, some people who eat more vegetables and fruits may require less ordinary water.

Fruits and vegetables that contain the highest amount of water are cantaloupes, strawberries, watermelon, lettuce, cabbage, and celery. Also high in water are yogurt, cottage cheese, pasta, shrimp, salmon, and chicken breast.

How Long Can an Average Person Survive without Water?

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While consuming foods rich in water does help prevent dehydration, this food alone is not enough to provide the necessary amount to support the system.

Side effects and risks of restricted water intake

Some of the side effects and risks of a dehydrated body are a lack of energy and overall tiredness, injuries such as heat cramps or heatstroke, brain swelling, seizures, hypovolemic shock, kidney failure, and death.

You have to be really careful with and conscious about your fluid intake if you feel you are dehydrated. Again, the appropriate method of being rehydrated depends on each person. While adults may only need to drink some water, small kids might also need some sodium mixed in it. In most extreme cases, intravenous intake of water and salt could potentially be required.


Overall, maintaining adequate water intake for your body is crucial for your health and life. Without consuming water, you will survive for several days. You can rely on your thirst to know how much you need. However, during hot days, when you are sick, and while you are active, you need more even if you do not feel like it.

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