When to take child to hospital for dehydration: Dehydration & fluid loss: children & teens
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- a dry or sticky mouth
- few or no tears when crying
- eyes that look sunken
- in babies, the soft spot (fontanelle) on top of the head looks sunken
- peeing less or fewer wet diapers than usual
- dry, cool skin
- drowsiness or dizziness
What Is Dehydration?
We all lose some body water every day in our sweat, tears, urine (pee), and stool (poop). Water also evaporates from skin and leaves the body as vapor when we breathe. We usually replace this body fluid and the salts it contains through our regular diet.
Sometimes, kids lose large amounts of water and salts. This can happen when they have a fever, diarrhea, or vomiting, or through long periods of exercise with lots of sweating. And some illnesses can make it hard for them to drink fluids.
If they can’t replace the fluid that’s been lost, kids can become dehydrated.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration?
If your child has a fever, diarrhea, or vomiting, or is sweating a lot on a hot day or during intense physical activity, watch for signs of dehydration. These include:
How Is Dehydration Treated?
It’s important to know the early signs of dehydration and to respond quickly if your child has them. The goal in treating dehydration is to replace fluids and restore body fluids to normal levels.
Kids who are mildly dehydrated from lots of activity will probably be thirsty and should drink as much as they want. Plain water is the best option. They should rest in a cool, shaded spot until the lost fluid has been replaced.
Kids with mild to moderate dehydration due to diarrhea from an illness (like gastroenteritis) should have their lost fluids replaced. This is known as rehydration. It’s done by giving a special liquid called an oral rehydration solution (ORS) over the course of 3 to 4 hours.
ORS is available in many grocery stores and drugstores without a prescription. It has the right combination of sugar and salts that dehydrated kids need.
Start the rehydration process by giving your child 1 or 2 teaspoons (5 or 10 milliliters) of an ORS every few minutes. You can use a spoon or an oral syringe. This may not seem like enough fluids to rehydrate your child, but these small amounts can add up to more than a cup (237 milliliters) an hour. If your child does well, you can gradually give bigger sips a little less often.
Even kids who are vomiting can usually be rehydrated this way because the small frequent sips get absorbed in between the vomiting episodes.
A breastfed infant should continue to be nursed, even during rehydration, unless vomiting repeatedly. Give the ORS in between feedings. Stop giving formula to a formula-fed baby during rehydration, and restart as soon as your baby can keep fluids down and isn’t showing signs of dehydration.
Do not give a dehydrated child water, soda, ginger ale, tea, fruit juice, gelatin desserts, or chicken broth. These don’t have the right mix of sugar and salts and can make diarrhea worse. Older kids who are dehydrated can have sports drinks, but oral rehydration solution is best for young children and infants.
When your child is rehydrated, you can serve a normal diet, including breast milk, formula, or milk.
Some dehydrated kids do not improve when given an ORS, especially if they have explosive diarrhea (very frequent BMs that are forceful and very loud) or are vomiting often. When fluid losses can’t be replaced for these or other reasons, a child might need to get intravenous (IV) fluids in the hospital.
If you’re treating your child for dehydration at home and feel that there’s no improvement or that the dehydration is getting worse, call your doctor right away or take your child to the nearest emergency room (ER).
Can Dehydration Be Prevented?
Making sure kids get plenty of fluids when they’re sick or physically active can help protect them from getting dehydrated.
How to keep them hydrated can depend. For example, a child with a sore throat may become dehydrated because drinking or eating is too painful. Easing the pain with acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help, and cold drinks or popsicles can soothe a burning throat while also giving fluids.
Not all fevers need to be treated, but if your child is uncomfortable and not getting enough fluids, you can give acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help control the fever.
It’s important that kids drink often during hot weather. Those who play sports or are very physically active should drink extra fluids beforehand, and then take regular drink breaks (about every 20 minutes) during the activity. Ideally, sports practices and competitions should be held in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day.
Thirst is not a good early sign of dehydration. By the time they feel thirsty, kids might already be dehydrated. That’s why they should start drinking before they feel thirsty and have more fluids even after thirst is quenched.
Dehydration and the “Stomach Flu”
Kids with mild gastroenteritis (also called the “stomach flu”) who aren’t dehydrated should still drink extra fluids to replace those lost from vomiting and diarrhea. Most kids can safely eat their regular diet while they’re sick.
Infants with mild gastroenteritis who aren’t dehydrated should continue getting breast milk or regular-strength formula. Older kids may continue to drink full-strength milk and other fluids.
Foods that are usually well tolerated by kids with gastroenteritis who aren’t dehydrated include: complex carbohydrates (such as rice, wheat, potatoes, bread, and cereals), lean meats, yogurt, fruits, and vegetables. Avoid fatty foods or foods high in sugars (including juices and soft drinks).
If your child is vomiting and isn’t dehydrated, give fluids often, but in small amounts.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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Signs of Dehydration in Toddlers: Warning Signs
Signs of Dehydration in Toddlers: Warning Signs
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Medically reviewed by Laura Marusinec, MD — By Jacquelyn Cafasso on June 2, 2016
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All kids and adults lose water constantly throughout the day. Water evaporates from the skin and leaves the body when you breathe, cry, sweat, and use the toilet.
Most of the time, a toddler gets enough water from eating and drinking to replace the fluids they lose. But in some cases, kids can lose more water than normal. Fevers, stomach flus, being out in hot weather, or too much exercise, for example, may result in too much fluid loss. This can lead to dehydration.
Dehydration isn’t something to take lightly. When it happens, the body doesn’t have enough fluids and water to function properly. In severe cases, this could lead to brain damage or even death.
Read on to learn the warning signs of dehydration in your toddler, and tips for how to prevent it.
Is my toddler at risk for dehydration?
Dehydration happens when more fluid is leaving the body than entering it. Children are more susceptible to dehydration than older teens and adults because they have smaller bodies. They have smaller reserves of water.
Some toddlers become dehydrated because they don’t drink enough water. Certain factors can also put your toddler at a higher risk of dehydration. These include:
- excessive sweating
- poor fluid intake during an illness
- chronic illnesses like diabetes or a bowel disorder
- exposure to hot and humid weather
Diarrhea may be caused by an infection (viral, bacterial, or parasite), food allergy or sensitivity, a medical condition such as inflammatory bowel disease, or a reaction to a medication. If your toddler is vomiting, has watery stools, or is unable or unwilling to drink because of an illness, monitor them for signs of dehydration. Be ready to respond.
Warning signs of dehydration in toddlers
Dehydration can happen very slowly over time, or it can happen suddenly. Toddlers with an illness, especially stomach flu, should be monitored closely for signs of dehydration. The warning signs aren’t always obvious.
Don’t wait until your toddler is excessively thirsty. If they’re really thirsty, they may already be dehydrated. Instead, look out for these warning signs:
- dry, cracked lips
- dark-colored urine
- little or no urine for eight hours
- cold or dry skin
- sunken eyes or sunken soft spot on the head (for babies)
- excessive sleepiness
- low energy levels
- no tears when crying
- extreme fussiness
- fast breathing or heart rate
In the most serious cases, your toddler can become delirious or unconscious.
Treating dehydration in toddlers
The only way to effectively treat dehydration is to replenish the lost fluids. Mild dehydration can be managed at home. If your toddler has diarrhea, vomiting, or fever, or is showing signs of dehydration, take the following steps.
- Give your toddler an oral rehydration solution like Pedialyte. You can purchase Pedialyte online. These solutions contain water and salts in precise proportions and are easy to digest. Plain water won’t usually be enough. If you don’t have an oral rehydration solution available, you can try milk or diluted juice until you are able to get some.
- Keep giving your toddler liquids slowly until their urine is clear. If your toddler is vomiting, give them only a small amount at a time until they’re able to keep it down. They may only be able to tolerate a spoonful at a time, but anything is better than nothing. Gradually increase the frequency and amount. Giving too much too fast will often cause vomiting to return.
- If you are still breast-feeding, continue to do so. You can also give your baby a rehydration solution in their bottle.
Preventing dehydration in toddlers
It’s important for parents to learn the warning signs of dehydration. If your toddler is excessively thirsty, it may already be too late. Here are some steps to take to prevent dehydration.
Have an oral rehydration solution on hand at all times. These are available in liquids, popsicles, and powders.
- If your toddler gets sick, be proactive about their fluid intake. Start giving them extra water and a rehydration solution at the first sign of an illness.
- Toddlers who won’t eat or drink due to a sore throat may need to ease the pain with acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil). Shop for acetaminophen or ibuprofen at Amazon.
- Make sure your toddler is up-to-date on vaccinations, including the rotavirus vaccine. Rotavirus causes one-third of all diarrhea-related hospitalizations in kids under 5. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns or questions about the rotavirus vaccine.
- Teach your toddler how to wash their hands before eating or drinking and after using the bathroom to avoid contracting infections.
- Encourage children to drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise.
- If you’re outside on a hot summer day, allow your toddler to enjoy a pool, sprinkler, or rest in a cool, shaded environment, and offer them plenty of water.
When to see a doctor if your toddler is dehydrated
Bring your child to the doctor if:
- your child doesn’t appear to be recovering or is becoming more dehydrated
- there’s blood in your toddler’s stool or vomit
- your child refuses to drink or have an oral rehydration solution
- your toddler’s vomiting or diarrhea is persistent and severe and they can’t drink enough fluid to keep up with how much they’re losing
- the diarrhea is lasting more than a few days
A doctor can check for dehydration and replenish your child’s fluids and salts quickly intravenously (through a vein) if needed.
Dehydration in your toddler can’t always be prevented, but there are actions you can take right now to help. Learn to recognize the warning signs. Contact your pediatrician if you’re concerned your toddler might be dehydrated.
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Last medically reviewed on June 2, 2016
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- Berger, E. (2013, August 9). Dehydration
- Churgay, C. A., & Aftab, Z. (2012, June 1). Gastroenteritis in Children: Part I. Diagnosis. American Family Physician, 85(11), 1059-1062
- Churgay, C. A., & Aftab, Z. (2012, June 1). Gastroenteritis in Children: Part 2. Prevention and Management. American Family Physician, 85(11), 1066-1070
- Dehydration. (2016, March)
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, February 12). Dehydration
- Signs of dehydration in infants and children. (2015, November 21)
Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.
Jun 2, 2016
Medically Reviewed By
Laura Marusinec, MD
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Medically reviewed by Laura Marusinec, MD — By Jacquelyn Cafasso on June 2, 2016
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Children from 0 to 5 years old. When should you take your child to the doctor? (Sergiev Posad)
Children from 0 to 5 years old. When should you take your child to the doctor?
ATTENTION: Online consultations of doctors are available (more than 18 specialties).
The birth of a child in a family is a great joy, but its growth and development are not without illness. Parents do not always want to seek medical help from a doctor. The reasons for this may be different: confidence that self-treatment will help, on the advice of grandmothers, forums; hope that the disease itself will recede; fear of hospitalization. This is irresponsible behavior, because the appearance of harmless symptoms can be a sign of a serious illness.
For example, cough, runny nose with fever occur with a common cold, and occur with a severe malignant disease – leukemia.
Therefore, listen to the good advice of a pharmacist or relatives, but at the same time make an appointment with a pediatrician. If any alarming symptoms appear, contact a pediatrician for diagnosis and treatment, and if the baby is under 28 days old, contact a neonatologist.
Children under 5 years of age are at risk. At this age, there are many serious diseases that are well studied by medicine, are treated easily, but require prompt medical intervention.
The pediatrician of the Medical Center “Paracelsus” Chernova Olga Ivanovna spoke about cases in which self-medication is dangerous – it threatens the health of the child. Let’s talk about children from birth to five years.
High temperature (fever)
The temperature is considered high when it exceeds 37ºС.
Not always a high temperature is a negative sign, but still it is an occasion to play it safe for parents. It is not worth waiting for several days, “watching”, because infections under the age of three develop quickly – they can strike in a couple of hours.
When a fever occurs, other symptoms that may appear are important:
- The kid does not want to drink water.
- Lethargy and fatigue appear, it is difficult for him to sit and answer questions.
These are signs of intoxication, the faster the doctor conducts an examination, conducts instrumental diagnostics, the greater the likelihood of making a correct diagnosis.
When a rash appears on the skin, along with a temperature, you need to see a doctor very quickly. Before a visit to the doctor, do not treat the spots that appear with iodine or brilliant green.
An increase in body temperature to the mark of 39 about C is a reason to call an ambulance.
Cough in a child
Often, parents consider coughing to be a common occurrence that can be managed at home. But he is just a symptom, and the cause is hidden much deeper. The cough will not go away by itself, there is no need to hope and wait for it.
The appearance of a cough is not always a sign of a respiratory disease. It can appear with changes in the cardiovascular and digestive systems. It may appear with otitis media. Prolonged lack of treatment or self-treatment of cough without determining its causes will lead to complications. The more neglected the problem, the more difficult it will be for the doctor to understand the symptoms, and then prescribe the correct treatment.
Cough is dangerous in the following cases:
- Up to six months of age (even if body temperature is not elevated).
- If it appears at night during sleep.
- If accompanied by a gag reflex.
- Barking cough or noisy breathing afterwards.
- If it doesn’t go away in twenty days or more.
Breathing is an essential process for human life. His difficulty indicates a violation in the work of the respiratory system. Therefore, if your baby has symptoms of difficulty breathing, seek medical help quickly.
Difficulty breathing in an infant can be identified by a cavity in the abdomen that goes under the ribs. This is because he is trying to inhale as deeply as possible.
In older children, this symptom appears when they speak: they cannot say long phrases, sentences are abrupt. This symptom may appear in an asthmatic condition or may be a manifestation of obstructive bronchitis.
Breathing problems are often accompanied by wheezing, whistling in the chest, which indicates the presence of an obstruction in the airways. Her appearance threatens the life of the baby, so you need to quickly make an appointment with a doctor and examine the child.
Vomiting, diarrhea (diarrhea, loose stools)
These symptoms indicate an intestinal infection and intoxication. Vomiting and loose stools are dangerous because they often cause rapid dehydration with electrolyte disturbances due to loss of water and salts. Medical care for dehydration is aimed at replenishing fluid loss.
Liquefied stools are not always dangerous. If he was, once, it’s not scary. But if three times a day or more is a reason to worry, especially if symptoms of dehydration appear:
- decreased volume and frequency of urination;
- dryness of the skin and mucous membranes: there were few tears, saliva, the skin became dry and unusually flabby;
- the child often asks for a drink.
When you need to hurry to see a doctor or call an ambulance:
- The child refuses to drink, although he shows signs of dehydration.
- If there was no urination for five hours or more.
- Lethargy, moodiness, lack of interest in toys (even if there is no temperature).
- “Sink” eyes or fontanel (this is rare, but it is a formidable symptom).
- There is blood in the stool (even if there is no diarrhea).
Skin rash (rash) in a child
If the rash appears for the first time, this is an occasion to make an appointment with a doctor. Of course, not all rashes appear with a serious illness. But there are such serious diseases that need to be identified and treated in the early stages (for example, meningococcal infection). A doctor’s diagnosis will calm you down or give you the opportunity to quickly deal with the problem.
Do not cauterize the lesions with iodine, brilliant green or alcohol, as this will burn the tissue, which will make it difficult for the doctor to diagnose.
Pain is a typical reaction to danger. Usually pain is not the norm, except for that which appears from teething. But even this pain speaks of pathology, if the body temperature rises above 37 about C along with it, or it is very strong.
The fact that the child is in pain can be understood by the fact that he often cries, cannot take a comfortable position, cannot fall asleep.
Intense and growing pain syndrome, a reason for contacting a pediatrician.
Head injuries and loss of consciousness
Head injuries – May cause severe physical impairment in children (eg epilepsy). Not every head injury is dangerous. But if it happened, you should not rule out possible internal damage. If a child falls (even if you did not see what hit him) or you know for sure that he hit his head, immediately contact a pediatric neurologist.
In case of loss of consciousness, “limpness” or convulsions, you need to make an appointment with a pediatric neurologist immediately or call an ambulance!
Danger of self-treatment and lack of treatment
Often parents spend hours on forums to understand the cause of their child’s symptoms – it’s a waste of time. It is impossible to make a correct diagnosis, and even more so to independently prescribe the correct treatment, based only on visible symptoms!
Any disease has both visible signs and hidden ones. Several diseases can manifest with one symptom. An elevated temperature in a child can be with a common cold, or maybe with meningitis (inflammation of the membranes of the brain). Leukemia very often hides behind the symptoms of SARS. Mononucleosis is a contagious and very dangerous disease, at an early stage it is easy to confuse the disease with a sore throat due to similar symptoms.
Wrong treatment can develop a new disease and aggravate the old one!
Children’s doctors, with experience, will deal with complex childhood diseases, using laboratory and instrumental diagnostics.
The complete lack of treatment of childhood diseases is dangerous for the development of irreversible complications, disability, and a threat to the life of the child.
Parents play an important role in the early diagnosis of children’s diseases. From how closely the parents monitor the health of their child, how correctly they can describe his condition to the doctor, depends in which direction the preliminary examination will be carried out.
Advice to parents
- do not deny your child medical care – bring him to the doctor;
- be attentive to the health of children – observe and correctly describe all symptoms;
- do not be afraid to ask, ask the doctor several times if you do not understand something in his recommendations;
- Follow all recommendations, all doctor’s prescriptions, this can be vital.
Diagnosis and treatment of children at the Paracelsus Medical Center
The task of the children’s department of the Paracelsus Medical Center is to provide a full range of medical care from prevention to treatment of diseases from birth to 18 years.
In our children’s department, the appointments are conducted by doctors who have received special training to identify health disorders in children and infants, taking into account all age characteristics.
Children’s doctors of the Paracelsus clinic work according to the principles of evidence-based medicine (international protocols drawn up on the basis of clinical trials). This minimizes the chance of a false diagnosis.
Our medical center has developed and applies annual child monitoring programs. This is our pediatricians’ comprehensive approach to monitoring your child’s health.
The programs include a comprehensive examination, as well as all the necessary hardware and laboratory diagnostics recommended by the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation. As part of the programs, we provide medical care at a high international level, using high-precision expert-class equipment.
With care for your health, Paracelsus Medical Center
Dehydration in a child: symptoms and prevention
Resources for Parents
Dehydration in a child: symptoms and prevention
Dehydration is a pathological condition in which the body loses fluid and, along with it, salts and minerals. Infants and young children are especially at risk of dehydration because they lose fluid faster than adults.
Causes of dehydration
1. Difficulty in the flow of fluid into the body. This situation is rare. This may be the refusal of the child to drink liquid, for example, due to pain when swallowing. Or these are severe pathological conditions in which the child cannot swallow on his own.
2. Increased excretion of water and minerals by the body, when the loss of fluid exceeds its intake. This situation is observed in acute infections, food poisoning, parasitic damage, overheating, burns.
Signs of dehydration in a child: dry mucous membranes, shallow breathing, rapid pulse, low blood pressure, lethargy and irritability; decreased frequency of urination, deformation of the fontanel, lack of tears when crying.
Dehydration is a very dangerous condition, especially for children. Its most common cause is a viral infection with the following manifestations: high fever, loss of appetite, loose stools, vomiting.
In many cases, the infection is caused by rotaviruses.
Dehydration can also be the result of the formation of wounds in the child’s mouth, because they are also the result of the entry of the virus into the body. Painful mouth ulcers make it difficult for a child to eat and drink normally. Dehydration can also occur as a result of intense sweating, so on hot days you should make sure that the child consumes more fluids than usual. Always carry a bottle of water with you.
2. Symptoms of dehydration in children
The first symptoms of dehydration in infants and children are as follows: chills, weakness, crying without tears, dry mouth. In severe cases, symptoms include dry skin, a change in the smell and color of urine, and a decrease in the amount of urination. Having recognized these symptoms, it is worth thinking about how to restore the water balance of the body as soon as possible.
How to quench a child’s thirst?
Pediatricians always recommend water to quench your thirst. Drinking water will not cause a child to lose their appetite and will not have problems with tooth decay and obesity in the future, unlike the consequences of drinking sugary drinks.
A baby only needs a few teaspoons of water a day. When he shows that he is no longer thirsty, stop the process and give the next dose in a few hours.
The water given to the child should be boiled and cooled. Even tap water filtered with special filters is not suitable for direct consumption by a child, as it contains many chemicals and metals that can be harmful to health.
Teas are also recommended for children, but only in small amounts, as babies often like the sweetened drink. You can also give your child juices, preferably diluted 1:1 with water. The most useful are low-sugar juices containing pulp, without dyes and preservatives. They are meant to be safe for children to consume.
How to avoid dehydration?
If you have already experienced the annoying problem of dehydration in your child, do not rush to panic! Read the detailed description of actions on how to avoid this phenomenon.
Give your child a small amount of water several times a day
Breastfeed your baby more often, especially in hot weather
Use drinking water, chamomile tea and light fruit infusions
Check the temperature of drinks before serving it to the child – it should be at room temperature
Remember that hot days can be dangerous not only for your baby, but also for you. At this time, be sure to have a bottle of water with you separately for yourself and your baby. When a child’s dehydration is so severe that he looks visibly weak and lethargic, see a doctor as soon as possible.
In extreme cases of dehydration (accompanied by fever and diarrhoea), we are talking about inpatient treatment and the installation of a drip under the supervision of doctors
What Diet Should You Follow During Dehydration?
The most important rule during dehydration is the constant filling of the body with fluid. Not only oral rehydration fluids, but also some dietary changes play a key role in solving this problem.
Fruits and vegetables are best for consumption. Liquid products are also ideal.
It is very important to provide the child’s body with the necessary nutrients that enter it with food. Your baby’s diet should be free of complex carbohydrates (potatoes, rice, whole wheat bread, cereals), lean meats, and yogurt. The diet should be appropriate for the age of the child.