DESCRIPTIONDehydration means loss of water and essential body salts. The blood, gastrointestinal tract, and kidneys are involved. Dehydration can affect both sexes, all ages, but is most dangerous in newborns and infants.
Appropriate health care includes:
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications.
Self-care after diagnosis.
Hospitalization for intravenous fluids (severe or prolonged illness only).
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSDry mouth.
Decreased or absent urination.
Confusion and coma.
Low blood pressure.
Severely sunken fontanel (soft spot in scalp) in an infant.
CAUSESPersistent vomiting or diarrhea from any cause.
Use of drugs that deplete your child's fluids and electrolytes, such as diuretics ("water pills").
Overexposure to sun or heat.
Recent illness with high fever.
Chronic kidney disease.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
Obtain medical treatment for underlying causes of dehydration.
If your child is vomiting or has diarrhea, give small amounts of liquid with non-prescription electrolyte supplements--or drinks such as Gatorade--every 30 to 60 minutes.
If your child uses diuretics, weigh daily. Report to your doctor a weight loss of more than 3 pounds in 1 day or 5 pounds in 1 week.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Laboratory blood studies, including blood counts and electrolyte measurement (See Glossary).
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONSBlood-pressure drop, shock, and death from prolonged severe dehydration.
Curable with control of the underlying cause and replacement of necessary fluids.
Weigh your child daily on an accurate home scale and record the weight so you can be aware of fluid loss.
If your child is vomiting or has diarrhea, keep a record of the number of episodes so you can estimate fluid loss.
For minor dehydration, give the child frequent small amounts of clear liquids. Large amounts may trigger vomiting.
MEDICATIONYour doctor may prescribe intravenous fluids to replace lost water.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
Your child should rest in bed until symptoms are relieved. Reading or watching TV are acceptable activities.
DIET & FLUIDS
Depends on the underlying disorder. Salty foods decrease the effect of dehydration.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When appetite has returned and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of dehydration.