DESCRIPTIONPotassium imbalance is above- or below-normal levels of potassium in the blood, which eventually affects all body fluids and body cells.
Appropriate health care includes:
Self-care after diagnosis.
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications.
Hospitalization (severe cases).
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSWeakness and paralysis.
Dangerously rapid, irregular heartbeat or slow heartbeat (sometimes).
Nausea and diarrhea.
For below-normal levels (hypokalemia):
Weakness and paralysis.
Low blood pressure.
Life-threatening rapid, irregular heartbeat. This is more severe than with hyperkalemia.
For above-normal levels (hyperkalemia):
CAUSESChronic kidney disease with kidney failure. Failing kidneys eliminate potassium too slowly, causing an excess in the child's body.
Use of oral potassium supplements.
Burns or crushing injuries. These may release potassium from the child's body tissues into body fluids.
The use of diuretic drugs for hypertension or heart failure.
Prolonged loss of body fluids from vomiting or diarrhea.
Chronic kidney disease with kidney failure. At certain stages, this may cause the child's body to lose potassium.
RISK FACTORSDiabetes mellitus.
Use of drugs, such as diuretics, potassium supplements, and digitalis. Low potassium levels--especially in persons who take digitalis--often lead to serious heartbeat disturbances.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
RISK FACTORSIf your child takes digitalis and diuretics, frequent blood studies to monitor potassium levels are necessary.
Obtain medical care for your child's prolonged vomiting or diarrhea.
A normal medium to high blood level of potassium may help protect against coronary-artery disease.
), learn as much as you can about the condition, the drugs, and the ways to prevent a potassium imbalance.
Your own observation of symptoms, especially muscle weakness and heart-rhythm changes.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Laboratory blood and urine studies of potassium and other electrolytes.
EKG (See Glossary).
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONSCardiac arrest and death.
Usually can be corrected with intravenous fluids and treatment of the child's underlying disorder.
HOME CAREIf your child takes diuretics and digitalis, friends and family members should learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Learn to count a pulse at the wrist or neck.
MEDICATIONOral potassium supplements to raise low levels.
Diuretics to increase urination and decrease high potassium levels.
Intravenous fluids to correct a serious imbalance.
Medications appropriate for the child's underlying disease.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
Your doctor may prescribe:
Your child can resume normal activities as soon as symptoms improve.
DIET & FLUIDS
Depends on the condition. Mild hypokalemia can be corrected by increasing your child's consumption of potassium-containing foods, such as orange juice and bananas.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?Only after balance has been restored to normal and appetite has returned and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of a potassium imbalance or is having problems with a disorder that affects potassium levels.