First Aid: Dehydration

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First Aid

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



Related Resources

OrganizationAmerican Red Cross The American Red Cross helps prepare communities for emergencies and works to keep people safe every day. The website has information on first aid, safety, and more.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.


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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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