Family and raising children

Dehydration in children: causes, signs and treatment

Dehydration in children: causes, signs and treatment

In this article

  • What is dehydration?
  • How common is dehydration in children?
  • Signs and symptoms of dehydration in newborns
  • Causes of dehydration in children
  • How much fluid does a child need?
  • Are there any tests to diagnose dehydration in children?
  • How do you treat your child with dehydration?
  • How to prevent your child from dehydration?

If your child is exposed to extreme temperatures or fluid loss due to vomiting or diarrhoea, he becomes a prime candidate for dehydration. This article outlines practical ways you can protect your child from the condition by reading the signs and symptoms as well as treating dehydration while it is still mild.

What is dehydration?

We all lose water from our bodies through sweat, urine, faeces and tears in various forms during the day. These body fluids and salts are replaced by the fluids we drink and the diet we follow throughout the day, helping us to hydrate our bodies to the required levels. Children can lose large amounts of fluid and salt from the outside through prolonged physical activity and sweating. If your child is sick and has a fever, diarrhea, or vomiting, it could be due to dehydration. In addition, some illnesses may make it difficult for them to drink water or other fluids that can lead to dehydration.


How common is dehydration in children?

When a child does not take in enough fluids to replace fluid loss, dehydration can occur. Children are more likely to get dehydrated than adults, especially when they have a stomach virus or gastroenteritis. Since a young child’s body is not able to store a lot of fluid, it can quickly lead to dehydration. A child with dehydration can cause a lot of worry and anxiety for the parents, but if it is dealt with when it is mild, it can be easily treated and a serious condition can be avoided.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration in newborns

One sure sign of dehydration in newborns is wet nappies and a reduced number of nappies the baby has. Dehydration affects the whole body, so keep a close eye on your child’s activity level as he may want to sleep more than usual. Common signs and symptoms of dehydration are as follows:

  • Dark urine and foul odor
  • idle
  • Six hours or more without urinating
  • Dry lips and cracked mouth
  • increased thirst


  • Few or no tears
  • headache and dizziness

Here are the signs of severe dehydration:

  • sunken eyes
  • Extreme irritability and insomnia
  • sunken fontanelle
  • Cold and choppy hands and feet

Causes of dehydration in children

There can be many reasons why your child may be dehydrated and they are as follows:

1. Diarrhea and vomiting

A stomach virus such as gastroenteritis can cause your child to lose fluids from diarrhea and vomiting. Diarrhea does not allow your child to retain any fluids in his intestines, and fluids cannot be retained, which causes the child to become dehydrated quickly.

2. Fever

Fever is one of the most common causes of dehydration. A fever will make your child sweat profusely, which will cool the body as it evaporates. It can cause more fluid to be lost through exhalation faster than through normal inhalation.


3. Decreased intake of milk and other fluids

If your baby has a sore throat or is teething, he may refuse to breastfeed. Even a stuffy nose can prevent him from taking fluids and this can lead to dehydration.

4. Excess body temperature

If your child wears a lot of layers or is in a crowded place, this can lead to fluid loss through sweating and thus dehydration.

How much fluid does a child need?

As a newborn, your baby will get all the fluids he needs through breast milk or formula feeding. By this time (when they are 6 months old), their activity level is very limited. Once they exceed this limit, you will enter the food in solid or semi-solid form and can be fed with a little water from the cup. Diluted juice (1 part juice to 10 parts water) can help with fluid intake. Sugary drinks, hot drinks, and any type of drinks that contain artificial sweeteners should be kept out of the reach of children until they are at least one year old.

Are there any tests to diagnose dehydration in children?

Diagnostic tests for dehydration can be divided into non-laboratory evaluations and lab tests:

  • Non-laboratory evaluations include testing urine output, breathing and heart rate, awareness, dry skin, and testing whether the eyes appear puffy.
  • Laboratory tests are usually done if dehydration is severe and include a complete blood count for CBC, urinalysis, stool culture for diarrhea, and a basic metabolic panel (BMP).


How do you treat your child with dehydration?

The primary purpose of diffuse dehydration should be to quickly replace low fluid levels in the body and return them to normal levels. The following steps must be taken:

  • Take your child to a cool place and give him as much plain water as he wants.
  • If your child is recovering from mild or moderate dehydration due to diarrhea from gastroenteritis, the lost fluids should be replaced through rehydration therapy.
  • ORS – Oral Rehydration Solution is the ideal children’s rehydration drink to be given over 3 to 4 hours. It is the combination of salts and sugars that can help the baby to regenerate quickly.


How to prevent your child from dehydration?

Since prevention is the best treatment, you can take care that your child does not get sick (which can lead to dehydration) and is not exposed to conditions that are too hot. from here:

1. How do we prevent dehydration due to disease?

Children can lose large amounts of fluid quickly when they are sick because this can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. To keep these viruses away from your child, it is best to use a good hand lotion when handling the child and also when visiting friends and relatives. Do not miss any of your doctor’s appointments and follow your vaccination schedule exactly.


2. How do we prevent dehydration when it is hot outside?

During the summer, make sure your child is wearing appropriate, lightweight, airy clothing. Keep it out of the sun and never wrap it in a blanket or jacket while you sleep.

Dehydration is a common condition that affects newborns, and if treated properly by closely monitoring symptoms, you can prevent and even treat it.

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