Children have smaller bodies than adults and have less fluid to lose if they get sick. When a child comes down with an illness that causes vomiting and diarrhea, he is a very high risk for dehydration. Parents should be aware of the most common symptoms of dehydration, as well as how to prevent dehydration in children from happening to begin with.
Causes of Dehydration in Children
The most common causes of dehydration in children are vomiting and diarrhea associated with certain types of viruses or infections. Rotavirus is one type of intestinal illness that affects mostly children under the age of five and can lead to severe dehydration due to watery diarrhea.
Symptoms of Dehydration in Children
Parents can tell if their child is dehydrated by looking for the following symptoms:
Dryness of the mouth
Little to no tear production when crying
Sunken soft spot on the head of an infant or a toddler
Babies who do not have at least one wet diaper over the span of six hours
Children who do not urinate at least once in the span of twelve hours
Urine that is dark
Skin abnormally cool to the touch
How to Prevent Dehydration in Children
It is important that a parent try and replace fluids a child loses due to vomiting or diarrhea. Clear liquids usually work best and are easy for a child to tolerate. If a child is beginning to show symptoms of dehydration, they can be given a liquid pediatric electrolyte supplement such as Pedialyte. Sports drinks or juices may seem like a good option, but they can actually make a child sicker. The high sugar content in sports drinks, juices, or sodas can cause diarrhea to become more severe, dehydrating the child more rather than rehydrating.
Ice chips are an option for children who are unable to drink without vomiting. They melt slowly so that the child is not overwhelmed with a mouthful of fluid, and nausea is not triggered. Ice chips can serve the same purpose if a child has diarrhea and should not have the sugar in ice pops.
Treatment for Dehydration
Treatment for dehydration depends on the age of the child and the severity of dehydration. Older children will dehydrate at a slower rate than babies or toddlers. If a child is mildly dehydrated, he or she can be rehydrated at home with the appropriate fluids as long as the condition does not become more severe. An infant or toddler that experiences moderate to severe dehydration may require medical intervention in the form of IV fluids.
Parents who have concerns regarding their child and dehydration should consult their child’s pediatrician. It is always better to be safe than to be sorry.
Related: Ways to Drink More Water