Dehydration happens when the body consumes more fluid than it takes in, or loses it. Dehydration can affect anyone, including infants.
People can quickly absorb the fluids by drinking and eating as normal on most days. Nevertheless, diarrhea, vomiting, fever and hot weather may all increase fluid loss and raise the risk of dehydration.
Caregivers should be mindful of the warning signs of dehydration in children, because this may lead to severe problems in safety. That can even be fatal in extreme cases.
Read on for more detail on the signs, symptoms and causes of dehydration. We cover medication as well, including when to see a doctor. With proper care, treating dehydration is straightforward and leads to full recovery.
Signs and symptoms of dehydration in toddlers
Whether an child has a stomach bug, is vomiting, has diarrhea, or refuses to eat or drink, caregivers will watch for symptoms of dehydration.
Caregivers should keep in mind that the child can not understand or be able to express the initial signs of hunger or exhaustion to others. It is important that we do not wait until the baby becomes excessively hungry before taking action.
Signs of dehydration in infants may include:
- urinating less frequently
- dry diapers, or no urination, for 3 hours or longer
- no tears when crying
- cracked lips
- a dry mouth
- sunken eyes
- decreased activity
- crying or being fussy
- dry or sticky mucus on the tongue or the lining of the mouth
- fast breathing
- a rapid heart rate
Causes and risk factors
For children, dehydration happens as more fluid exits the body than it comes for.
Many cases can result from infants who don’t drink enough water. Occasionally, however, an infection, sickness, or disease may lead to dehydration.
Risk factors for dehydration in infants are:
- not drinking enough water
- viral infections, such as rotavirus, Norwalk virus, and adenovirus
- bacterial infections, including Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Campylobacter, and Clostridium difficile
- parasitic infections, such as Giardia lamblia, also known as giardiasis
- excessive sweating due to fever or hot weather
- a fever
- chronic illnesses, including diabetes, bowel disorders, celiac disease, and cystic fibrosis
- a reaction to medication
- hot and humid weather
To determine the cause and extent of an infant’s dehydration, the doctor should consider their medical history, discuss with a caregiver their signs and symptoms, and perform a physical examination.
Often, the doctor may order different laboratory tests to help them identify the optimum treatment. Check for dehydration triggers can include:
- a complete blood count to look for infections
- blood cultures to check for infections
- blood chemistry tests to identify electrolyte imbalances, in cases of diarrhea and vomiting
- urine tests to look for bladder infections, determine the severity of the dehydration, and check for uncontrolled diabetes
- chest X-ray
- testing for rotavirus infection
- stool analysis
- a lumbar puncture to test the spinal fluid
Treatment and home remedies
For babies at home, carers will typically treat dehydration. The first step of recovery is to replace missing fluids with oral rehydration solutions intended to replace sugar and electrolytes.
People can find oral rehydration items in grocery stores, pharmacy stores, and over-the-counter (OTC).
Clear soups, popsicles, and ice chips can help with rehydration, particularly when an infant refuses to drink water. When the baby is already breast-feeding, between the rehydration solution and their healthy diet they will continue to do so.
When an infant requires medical attention, its doctor can provide rehydration as an IV solution.
Toddlers who were ill could start eating again if they haven’t vomited for 4 hours. The BRAT diet, consisting of bananas, pasta, applesauce, and toast, has been used by people for decades to relieve diarrhea and vomiting in children.
While this diet is healthy and receives strong anecdotal reviews, no rigorous study has been done to validate how well it works.
Nevertheless, a 2016 single-blind randomized controlled trial found rice soup to be successful alongside a prescription oral rehydration solution for children aged 8–24 months with acute diarrhea.
When to see a doctor
Caregivers should take a toddler with any of the following symptoms to see a doctor:
- no urinating for over 3 hours
- more urination than normal
- diarrhea that lasts for more than 24 hours
- dry mouth
- crying without tears
- bloody stool
- sunken eyes
- fever of 102°F or above
- abdominal or rectal pain
- decreased activity levels
When to call emergency services
Dehydration can turn serious.
If it is not possible to find a specialist, calling the emergency services or going to the nearest emergency room is crucial if the baby is:
- has a dry mouth
- has severe stomach pain
- is lethargic or difficult to wake up
Preventing dehydration in toddlers
Caregivers will also avoid dehydration in children by becoming conscious of the risk factors for dehydration and immediately replacing the fluids. Can also aid with the following techniques:
- If a toddler is vomiting, has diarrhea, or shows early signs of dehydration, give them an oral rehydration solution as soon as possible.
- When it is hot and sunny outside, allow toddlers to acclimatize to the heat slowly.
- Ensure that toddlers are drinking enough water throughout the day, especially if they are unwell or it is a hot day.
- Give toddlers plain water instead of sugary soft beverages because sugary or salty foods and beverages can lead to dehydration.
For most cases, a common viral infection causes babies to become dehydrated. During illness, dehydration can cause painful side effects and severe complications, and without treatment, can be fatal. So avoiding and treating dehydration is important.
Giving the baby plenty of fluids using oral rehydration medications, or an IV if appropriate, would ensure a full recovery.