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First Aid: Dehydration

First Aid

Dehydration can happen if kids aren't drinking enough liquids. They also can get 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
  • 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 or wrinkly 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 peeing for 8 or more hours in an infant
  • no peeing for 10 or more hours in a child
  • deep, rapid breathing
  • fast 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, clear broth, or ice pops. Give 1 to 2 tablespoons every 15–20 minutes.

Get Emergency Medical Care if Your Child:

  • shows any sign of severe dehydration
  • can't keep clear liquids down
  • isn't peeing

Think Prevention!

  • Washing hands well and often can help prevent many of the illnesses that can lead to dehydration.
  • Encourage taking in frequent, small amounts of liquids during illnesses to prevent dehydration.
  • If vomiting happens, use only clear fluids to rehydrate.
Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: July 2018