Dehydration in children is not uncommon. It can range in its level of severity. Dehydration can occur for many reasons including: when a child has diarrhea and/or vomiting, on very hot days, on cold days (because heaters dry out the air), or in children who play sports. In newborns, dehydration can be an indication that they are not getting enough to eat. Here are the signs of dehydration in children and babies, and what you can do to help your kids stay hydrated.
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If your child becomes dehydrated, you will see certain signs. Their eyes may look sunken in and they may become fatigued. They will urinate less often, and may not have tears when they cry. They will also have dry lips and dry mucous membranes in their mouth.
Additional signs of dehydration in infants include a sunken soft spot on the head and irritability or, if more severe, lethargy. Effects of dehydration also include having fewer wet diapers than usual.
How to make sure your child stays hydrated:
Of course, the number one tip when it comes to keeping your child hydrated is making sure they drink plenty of water throughout the day and limit other types of drinks, especially caffeinated sodas, which can have the opposite effect.
A great way to prevent mild dehydration in kids is to run a humidifier when your child is sick, or during the winter months when the heater is running. When your child is sick, a stuffy nose often means they’re breathing through their mouth, which leaves your child with an uncomfortably dry mouth and throat. A humidifier moisturizes the air and can help prevent mild dehydration caused by dry air. With infants, significant nasal congestion may impair their ability to feed adequate because they cannot breathe through their nose and suck on a bottle or breastfeed at the same time. Removing nasal secretions in infants with severe nasal congestion will help them feed and prevent dehydration.
For more immediate relief from dehydration, especially when your child is vomiting or experiencing diarrhea, try Pedialyte or other drinks with electrolytes. They also come in popsicle form, perfect for hot days and often more palatable to picky kids. Clear soup is also another good choice. Also, diluted juice may be an option (i.e., half apple juice and half water). Tolerating some liquid is better than no liquid! If your child has been vomiting, give them small sips more frequently, little by little. Large volumes in a single sitting may actually cause vomiting, if they are already have nausea.
If your child is an infant younger than 6 months, nurse more often. Breastmilk or formula is the best way to hydrate them, and ask a doctor before giving them water or Pedialyte.
In situations where dehydration is more severe, your child may need IV fluids (putting fluids directly into a vein via a special catheter).
If your child is very lethargic, has not had a wet diaper in 4-6 hours, or is crying with no tears call your child’s pediatrician or have them seen at a specialized pediatric urgent care center right away.