First Aid: Dehydration

Dehydration can occur if kids aren't drinking enough fluids. They also can become dehydrated if they lose fluids through vomiting, diarrhea, or both.

Signs and Symptoms

Mild to moderate:

  • a dry tongue
  • few or no tears when crying
  • rapid heart rate
  • fussiness in an infant
  • no wet diapers for 6 hours in an infant
  • no urination (peeing) for 8 hours in children

Severe:

  • very dry mouth (looks "sticky" inside)
  • dry, wrinkly, or doughy skin (especially on the belly and upper arms and legs)
  • inactivity or decreased alertness and excessive sleepiness
  • sunken eyes
  • sunken soft spot on top of an infant's head
  • no urination for 8 or more hours in an infant and 10 or more hours in a child
  • deep, rapid breathing
  • rapid or weakened pulse

What to Do

Mild dehydration often can be treated at home. If your child has diarrhea but no vomiting, continue feeding a normal diet. If your child is vomiting, stop milk products and solid foods, and:

  • Give infants an oral electrolyte solution (a solution that restores lost fluids and minerals), about 1 tablespoon every 15-20 minutes.
  • Give children over 1 year old sips of clear fluids such as an oral electrolyte solution, ice chips, flat non-caffeinated soda, clear broth, or ice pops. Give 1 to 2 tablespoons every 15-20 minutes.

Seek Emergency Medical Care

If Your Child:

  • shows any sign of severe dehydration
  • is unable to keep clear fluids down

Think Prevention!

  • Washing hands well and often can help prevent many of the illnesses that can lead to dehydration.
  • Encourage frequent, small amounts of fluids to avoid dehydration during illnesses.
  • If vomiting occurs, use only clear fluids to rehydrate.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2014