Dehydration Symptoms
in Children and Babies
by Nancy Hearn, CNC

father with a babyKnow dehydration symptoms in children and babies

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It is important for parents and caretakers to recognize dehydration symptoms in children, especially since babies and young children are more susceptible than adults to becoming dehydrated.

Some of the key reasons for the increased risk include the following:

  1. Children have a higher metabolic rate (the rate at which their bodies burn calories) and thus they use more water
  2. Babies and young children have a higher percentage of water in their bodies than adults to. Babies are close to 90 percent water, whereas the average adult is 70 to 75 percent.
  3. Babies and young children will often refuse to drink when they are ill. Parents often have to get very creative to get the child to drink fluids.
  4. The young child’s immune system is not fully developed. Thus, they are more susceptible to infections and illnesses that cause vomiting and diarrhea.

For these and many more reasons, it is important for parents to not only know the dehydration symptoms in children but also to understand how to prevent it.

How to Prevent Dehydration in Children

Even when healthy, encourage your baby or small child to drink water on a daily basis.

No other fluid takes the place of water for proper hydration.

Always encourage your child to drink more if the weather is hot or at the earliest signs of an illness.

Do not wait for signs of dehydration to begin fluid replacement.

When babies and small children have illnesses with diarrhea, vomiting or fever, watch them closely for the signs and symptoms of dehydration.

Take appropriate action.

Mild Dehydration Symptoms in Children

According to WebMD, a few of the early symptoms of dehydration in young children include:

  1. A dry mouth or sticky saliva
  2. Little urine output and urine that is dark yellow
  3. Irritability

When to Call the Doctor

For mild symptoms of dehydration in children, replenishing fluids may suffice.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends calling 911 if your child has the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Lethargic or slow moving
  • Confusion

The NIH recommends calling the doctor right away if your child has one or more of these symptoms:

  • No tears or sunken eyes
  • Little or no urine
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Dry mouth or eyes
  • Sunken soft spot on your baby’s head
  • Blood in the vomit or stool
  • Listlessness
  • Diarrhea or vomiting (for babies under 2 months old)
  • Diarrhea lasting more than 5 days in a child
  • Vomiting lasting longer than 12 hours for a child

Further reading...; Signs of Dehydration in Infants and Children; 2019.

Return from Dehydration Symptoms in Children to Dehydration Effects

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