Dehydration in Kids: Signs, Causes & Treatment
Dehydration in children is fairly common and if it gets controlled well in time with the right treatment measures then many complications can be prevented.
It is also important to take some steps towards the prevention of dehydration in child such as breastfeeding, regular water drinking habits and introducing watery fruits to toddlers.
Once the child shows signs of dehydration, there are some home remedies to treat the baby at home. However, we strongly advise that a few signs of dehydration like infrequent urination, tearless crying and a sunken spot in the head indicate that you should contact the child’s healthcare professional right away.
If your baby is showing dehydration symptoms then an electrolyte drink should be given to the child as soon as possible. This rehydration solution should not be very high in sodium content otherwise it can lead to hypernatremia in children.
This article includes the signs, causes and treatment of dehydration in Children.
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How to Know if Your Child is Dehydrated
Signs of dehydration in kids can range from mild to severe as per the severity of the water-loss episode. Some dehydration symptoms in children are –
- Dry Lips
- Dry Skin
- Tearless Crying
- Infrequent Urination, for example, a one-year-old who has not urinated in eight hours is most likely to be dehydrated.
- Dry Tongue
- Faster Breathing
- The soft spot on the scalp feels sunken in an infant if s/he is dehydrated.
- The eyes appear deeper or sunken in the eye socket.
- The Baby’s hands and feet may have some blotchy marks denoting dehydration
- The baby is lethargic and sleeping more than usual.
- Physical activity decreases as dehydration sets in.
What Causes Dehydration in Kids
There are many reasons that cause dehydration in kids such as water loss by diarrhea, vomiting, inadequate diet, fever, not being able to latch for breastfeeding properly (in case of an infant) and extreme heat like playing outside during full sun in summers etc.
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How to Prevent & Treat Dehydration in Kids
Whenever you feel that your child is dehydrated then giving a small amount of electrolyte solution every 3-4 hours treats dehydration in 90% of Children.
1) Regular Eating Habits
Dangers of dehydration in toddlers are especially high as they are always quite fussy about eating, that’s why regular eating habits and drinking healthy liquids should be encouraged in children right from their early childhood.
2) Avoid Overexertion
If your baby is already dehydrated then make sure s/he doesn’t exert as it will worsen the situation further. To prevent dehydration in children, don’t allow them to play outside in the scorching heat, allow them to step outside in the mornings and evenings only.
3) Breastfeed regularly
If your baby is facing difficulty in latching or sucking then take the help of a lactation consultant or try after every half an hour. Babies learn it with practice and breastfeeding will become normal for them.
Babies who are not exclusively breastfed till 6 months are at higher risk of dehydration than others. Try bottle feeding the pumped breastmilk or formula milk if the baby is not breastfeeding.
4) Prefer Non-sugary Drinks
Sugary drinks are not good for bowel movements and if your baby is having diarrhea then it is best that you avoid giving them sugar-laden cold drinks.
5) Electrolyte Drinks
They are very effective in replenishing the depleted energy and mineral stores quickly.
Electrolyte drinks have a balanced ratio of all the minerals and it increases the absorption of fluid in the small intestine thereby treating dehydration pretty quickly in children.
6) Dilute the Formula Milk
If your infant is on formula milk then dilute the milk with more water than usual until the diarrhea settles. This will add more fluid to his/her body and prevent dehydration along with administering the nutrients.
Give only those medicines which are recommended by your paediatrician. For Fever, try sponging your baby to keep it down, don’t let it rise above 100 degrees and consult a doctor if it does.
8) Lose-Fitted Clothes
Make sure the baby is wearing cotton clothes to avoid sweating. As sweating will make the baby lose more water.
Other ways of hydration for Toddlers are ice popsicles, water-rich fruits like oranges, watermelon etc.
When to See a Doctor
Please see a child specialist immediately if you experience any of these symptoms in your child –
- Tearless crying
- Less Active Child
- If the severity of vomiting and diarrhea increase
- No Urination in the last eight hours or in the case of infants, less than 6 diapers per day.
- High fever (more than 100 degrees F), severe abdominal pain, bloody stools and uncontrolled vomiting are the absolute signs that you must rush to the doctor immediately.
That means administering IV fluid may be required to control the water loss and stop diarrhea.
Treating dehydration in kids should be prompt as their tiny bodies get dehydrated faster than adults and the child can go into hypovolemic shock if dehydration is not treated (source).
Always encourage your child to drink water and finish their water bottle till they come back home as dehydration is quite prevalent in school-going children and it can even lead to kidney impairment if it occurs frequently.
Whenever your child experiences diarrhea or vomiting episodes, give him electrolyte drinks after every 3-4 hours to prevent and treat dehydration. It will go a long way in preventing any dehydration complications and will help the baby recover faster.