First Aid: Dehydration
Dehydration can occur if kids aren’t drinking enough fluids. They also can become dehydrated if they lose fluids through vomiting, diarrhea, or both.
Signs and Symptoms
Mild to moderate:
- a dry tongue
- few or no tears when crying
- rapid heart rate
- fussiness in an infant
- no wet diapers for 6 hours in an infant
- no urination (peeing) for 8 hours in children
- very dry mouth (looks “sticky” inside)
- dry, wrinkly, or doughy skin (especially on the belly and upper arms and legs)
- inactivity or decreased alertness and excessive sleepiness
- sunken eyes
- sunken soft spot on top of an infant’s head
- no urination for 8 or more hours in an infant and 10 or more hours in a child
- deep, rapid breathing
- rapid or weakened pulse
What to Do
Mild dehydration often can be treated at home. If your child has diarrhea but no vomiting, continue feeding a normal diet. If your child is vomiting, stop milk products and solid foods, and:
- Give infants an oral electrolyte solution (a solution that restores lost fluids and minerals), about 1 tablespoon every 15-20 minutes.
- Give children over 1 year old sips of clear fluids such as an oral electrolyte solution, ice chips, flat non-caffeinated soda, clear broth, or ice pops. Give 1 to 2 tablespoons every 15-20 minutes.
Seek Emergency Medical Care
If Your Child:
- shows any sign of severe dehydration
- is unable to keep clear fluids down
- Washing hands well and often can help prevent many of the illnesses that can lead to dehydration.
- Encourage frequent, small amounts of fluids to avoid dehydration during illnesses.
- If vomiting occurs, use only clear fluids to rehydrate.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2014