Dehydration happens when a person loses more fluids than he or she takes in. The human body is made up largely of water, so you need the right balance of fluids in your system for good health. Large amounts of fluids can be lost through fever, diarrhea, vomiting, or sweating. Dehydration happens very quickly in infants and small children. This is because they don’t have as much fluid to spare. Dehydration can quickly become very serious. Rehydration is the important way of returning those fluids back to the body. This restores normal functioning.
Watch for the following signs of dehydration. This is especially true if your child has a fever or diarrhea, or is vomiting:
Dry mouth or extreme thirst
Fewer than 6 wet diapers a day for infants, or less frequent urination in older children
Fussy or agitated behavior
Looking or acting very tired or weak
If you suspect dehydration, call your healthcare provider. You can treat mild dehydration at home by doing the following:
Keep track of how much fluid your child drinks and how often he or she urinates.
Breastfeed or bottle-feed a sick infant more often, but for shorter periods of time.
For vomiting or diarrhea, give your child 1 to 2 teaspoons of an oral rehydration solution (ORS) every 10 minutes. Continue until your child can drink larger amounts of fluid without vomiting or passing stool.
Avoid soft drinks, tea, juice, broth, or sports drinks like electrolyte solutions. These may make symptoms worse.
Do not use medicines for vomiting and diarrhea, unless your healthcare provider tells you to.
If your child has a hard time keeping fluids down and becomes very dehydrated, your healthcare provider may decide to treat him or her in a hospital. There, a healthcare provider can make your child comfortable. Your child will be given fluids and nourishment by mouth or through an intravenous (IV) line. Medicine may be given to stop the vomiting and allow your child to drink enough fluid to stay hydrated.
Get medical care right away if your child:
Is an infant younger than age 3 months, with a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher
Is a child of any age, with a temperature that rises repeatedly to 104.0°F (40°C) or higher
Is a child younger than age 2 years, with a fever that lasts more than 24 hours
Is a child ages 2 years or older, with a fever that lasts for 3 days
Is a child who has had a seizure caused by the fever
Is an infant vomiting all feeds (not just spitting up)
Hasn’t urinated for 6 hours or more, or has dark or strong-smelling urine
Can’t drink even small amounts of liquid without vomiting
Cannot be soothed or is very irritable or restless
Seems unusually drowsy, listless, weak, or limp
Has muscle cramps
Has dry, wrinkled, or pasty-looking skin, sunken-looking eyes, a very dry or sticky mouth, or cracked lips