Dehydration in children can be a very scary thing. Because infants and small children can lose fluid more quickly than older children and adults, they are much more likely to suffer from dehydration. Knowing the symptoms of pediatric dehydration is key to seeking the proper medical attention quickly.

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What Are The Causes Of Dehydration?

Most often, fever, diarrhea, vomiting and difficulty drinking or eating (this may be caused by serious bacterial infections) are the cause of dehydration. If your child is participating in activities that are outdoors during the summer, they may become dehydrated due to increased sweating. Excessive urination, usually caused by diabetes, can also cause dehydration.


What Are The Symptoms Of Dehydration?

If your child is suffering from dehydration, he or she may begin urinating less frequently. You may also noticed they become more irritable and lethargic. For infants, dehydration is often identified by a lack of tears when crying. Sunken eyes, a sunken soft spot on the front of the infant’s head and dry or sticky mucous membranes are also signs your child may be dehydrated.


How Is Dehydration In Children Diagnosed?

If your child is suffering from dehydration symptoms, it’s important that you seek medical care immediately. A doctor will likely complete a blood culture, blood count and urinalysis to determine what’s wrong. In some cases, your child’s doctor may recommend an X-ray of the chest, stool cultures or lumbar puncture.


How To Treat Dehydration

In less serious instances, dehydration can be treated at home with Pedialyte and similar products that will provide your child with sugar and electrolytes. For children older than one year of age, try giving a small amount of clear fluids for eight hours. To help with diarrhea, try flat soda, Gatorade, water-based sups and popsicles.

For infants up to one year of age, you should continue to give the same amount of fluids as normal via a bottle; however, if the infant is vomiting, give smaller amounts more frequently. If you are breast-feeding the infant, try to nurse more often. Most infants are also able to take Pedialyte, but it is recommended that you check with a doctor beforehand.

Typically it will take your child 24 to 48 hours to get back to a normal diet. In the meantime, try to limit his or her food intake to solids and bland foods, such as complex carbohydrates. You may begin to ease your child back into a normal diet with saltine crackers, white bread, rice and dried cereals.

In more serious cases of dehydration, your child may require professional medical treatment using an IV.


Dehydration And The Stomach Flu

Because most people who are suffering from the stomach flu experience nonstop vomiting and diarrhea, they are also more susceptible to dehydration.  Therefore, children experiencing the stomach flu should drink extra fluids in small amounts in order to replace those lost by vomiting and diarrhea.


How To Prevent Dehydration In Children

This may sound like a no-brainer, but it is essential that your child drink plenty of water and sports drinks that contain electrolytes when physically active. The recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics is that young children should drink every 20 minutes when exercising hard or playing sports on hot days.

If you will be sending your child to a sports camp or practices that will take place in the heat of the day, you should acclimate him or her to the heat gradually. Make sure to increase the intensity and length of the workouts slowly over 10 to 14 days. This will allow their body to get used to sweating more, which releases heat from the body.

Finally, make sure your young athlete wears the proper clothing when playing sports in the heat of the day. Encourage your child to wear lightweight and light-colored clothing when possible. If you can, find ventilated shorts and t-shorts that will allow heat to dissipate.

If your child is playing a sport that requires heavy equipment and pads, allow your athlete to practice in lighter clothing for the first week before putting on the bulkier gear.


How Much Water Should Children Drink Each Day?

We’ve all heard the saying: eight glasses of water a day. But is that applicable to children as well? How much water your child needs daily depends on a number of factors like age, weight and gender. However, it’s a safe bet to follow the numbers below from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies:


  • Ages 4 to 8 years old: Girls and boys should drink five cups of water each day.
  • Ages 9 to 13 years old: Girls should drink seven cups of water, while boys need eight cups each day.
  • Ages 14 to 18 years old: Girls need to drink eight cups of water every day and boys should have eleven cups.


You should keep in mind that the numbers above take into account all water sources, including drinking water, other beverages and food. Fruits and vegetables, for example, contain more water than other solid foods. This is why most produce has a lower calorie count than many other foods do.


When Should You Seek Medical Care For Dehydration?

If your child is dehydrated and experiences any of the following symptoms, you should seek medical care immediately:

  • Dry mouth
  • Blood in the stool
  • No tears when crying
  • Abdominal pain
  • Sunken eyes
  • Lack of urine for more than four hours
  • Fatigue and lack of activity
  • A fever that’s higher than 103 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Vomiting for more than 24 hours or vomiting that is green in color
  • Urinating more than usual


In some instances, you may need emergency medical attention.


Call 911 or visit the closest ER if your child is lethargic, you have difficulty reaching a doctor, your child is complaining of severe abdominal pain or his or her mouth looks dry.


If your child is suffering from symptoms of dehydration, pediatric experts at Medical City Children’s Urgent Care are highly qualified to quickly diagnose and treat your child.

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Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you or your child.