Dehydration in Kids – Symptoms & Causes

Dehydration may be common, but it can also become quite serious, especially in young children and infants. It is important for parents to know the symptoms of dehydration and know when to seek medical treatment. Many childhood illnesses such as the flu can cause dehydration due to excessive vomiting and diarrhea. When a child’s level of body fluids is low, oral rehydration solutions such as Pedialyte or Infalyte can help.

Dehydration in Kids

Symptoms of Dehydration in Kids

Young children are far more likely to suffer the ill effects of dehydration than adults.

Symptoms of mild dehydration include:

  • Dizziness / Light-headedness
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Dark Yellow or Brown Urine
  • Dry Mouth
  • Reduced Urine Output

In cases of severe dehydration, symptoms may include the above as well as:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Lethargic / Inactive
  • Pale Skin
  • Sunken Eyes
  • Sunken Soft Spot (infants)
  • Crying Without Tears
  • Cold Hands & Feet
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Trouble Staying Awake
  • Confusion / Irritability

Causes of Dehydration in Kids

The most common causes of dehydration in kids are as follows:

  • Excessive exercise or physical activity
  • Illness with fever, severe vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Medications that make you lose fluids (such as diuretics or laxatives)
  • Heat or hot weather

Anything that causes your child to lose bodily fluids, whether through sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea, can potentially lead to dehydration.

Therefore, if your child is sick or will be spending a great deal of time outdoors, be sure to encourage them to drink plenty of water and other fluids. Paying special attention to keeping your kids hydrated will avoid any of the major issues of dehydration.

Treatment of Dehydration in Kids

Kids with mild dehydration should be able to be successfully treated at home.

Basic dehydration treatment includes giving your child more fluids in the form of water, diluted juice, or oral rehydration solutions. Babies can continue taking in their usual breastmilk or formula but should avoid drinking water. It is important to note that drinks with high amounts of sugar can make dehydration worse. For this reason, it is recommended that parents of infants and small children keep Pedialyte on hand, especially during cold and flu season.

Your child may find it hard to drink a large amount of fluid at once, especially if they are sick. Taking small sips of water or chewing on ice chips can be a good alternative way to get fluids in your child at home.

In more serious cases, the delivery of IV fluids may be needed, which can be done at either a hospital or urgent care office. Untreated severe dehydration can lead to seizures, brain damage, and even death. So when in doubt, give 911 a call or visit your local emergency room.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Parents should keep a close eye on kids and infants who may be exhibiting signs of dehydration.

Children who are suffering from severe dehydration may become extremely lethargic, limp, or unable to cry. If your child is having trouble staying awake and is not responding readily to your voice, it is time to seek medical attention at your local emergency room.

Babies under six months who are dehydrated should always be seen by a medical professional.

Likewise, if your child has a medical condition or a history of chronic dehydration issues, a visit to the hospital might be necessary.