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First Aid: Dehydration

First Aid

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

Think Prevention!

  • 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