Hours of outdoor playtime and illness are common causes of dehydration in children. Dehydration is a condition that occurs when the body loses more water than it takes in. In severe cases of dehydration, there is not enough water to carry out normal body functions, such as temperature regulation and maintaining a normal heart rate.
Anyone can experience bouts of dehydration, but some groups, like babies and young children, are particularly vulnerable.
What Causes Dehydration?
When children lose fluids without adequate replacement, dehydration can result. The most common cause of dehydration in children is vomiting and diarrhea. Since babies and young children carry lower volumes of water in their bodies, they are particularly susceptible. Other activities, such as vigorous outdoor activity, can contribute to the onset of dehydration.
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What Are the Symptoms?
It can be difficult to assess dehydration in its earliest stages, especially since it can mimic other signs of illness. Mild dehydration can have several signs. Dehydration may be a possibility if your child:
- Complains of thirst or lightheadedness
- Has a dry mouth
- Is more tired than usual
- Urinates less frequently, and urine is dark or strong-smelling
Babies and younger children may not be able to communicate their symptoms to their parents. Keep an eye out for the following symptoms:
- A sunken spot (fontanelle) on the top of the head
- No or few tears with crying
- Fewer wet diapers
Can You Prevent Dehydration?
Mild cases of dehydration are common following illnesses. When a child does not feel well enough to eat or drink, even small amounts of fluid loss can lead to dehydration. When your child is not feeling well, you can encourage them to take small sips of clear liquid such as water. Though giving your child juice regularly is not recommended, providing diluted apple juice during periods of illness may be appropriate. If your child is resisting liquids, try making it novel by offering through silly straws or a special cup.
When dehydration is moderate or severe, electrolyte replacement through specially-formulated pediatric drinks may be indicated. Your Premier Urgent Care provider will tell you if you need to supplement with drinks such as Pedialyte.
With conservative measures, mild and moderate dehydration should resolve on its own with the reintroduction of fluids. In more severe cases, intravenous fluids may be necessary. Seek medical attention immediately if:
- Your baby or child is lethargic
- Your baby is less than 3 months old and has a fever
- Your baby goes more than 6 hours without a wet diaper
- Your baby’s fontanelle appears sunken
- Your child has dry or stick mucous membranes (inside of mouth, corners of eyes)
Dehydration is a common condition and can be scary for parents. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us for immediate care.
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