Signs And Symptoms Of Dehydration In Babies And Toddlers, As Well As How To Prevent Baby Dehydration.
By recognizing the symptoms and knowing how to handle this serious health concern, you can keep your baby safe and comfortable this summer.
What is dehydration?
A baby is dehydrated when she doesn’t have enough fluid in her body. According to WebMD, dehydration can occur if your baby takes in less fluid than she loses through sweating, vomiting or diarrhea.
A baby is especially prone to dehydration because “her metabolism is higher, she uses more water, and her kidneys have not yet perfected conserving water,” advised Dr. R. Gregory, a family physician who has cared for children for more than 30 years. “Additionally, a baby’s immune system isn’t fully developed, increasing the chance that she may contract an illness that causes fever, vomiting or diarrhea. And many babies refuse to eat or drink when they’re uncomfortable or ill, making it difficult to keep them sufficiently hydrated.”
What are the symptoms?
Dehydration can range from mild to life threatening, so it’s important to recognize the symptoms early. If your baby has one or more of these signs, she may be dehydrated:
- dark, strong-smelling urine
- fewer wet diapers than usual
- listlessness and/or irritability
- no tears when crying
- dry lips and/or parched mouth
A baby can quickly become seriously dehydrated, exhibiting one or more of these symptoms:
- gaunt-looking eyes
- sunken soft spot (fontanel) on her head
- excessive sleepiness
- cold hands and feet
What causes dehydration?
Dehydration can be caused by one or more of a number of factors, including:
- fever – body temperature rises, and excessive water evaporates and sweats out of the skin
- diarrhea – fluid is lost in the form of watery bowel movements
- vomiting – fluid from foods is lost through vomit before it can enter baby’s system
- overheating – warm weather and sun exposure create sweat and water evaporation
- refusing to eat – baby may refuse to eat if she’s ill or suffering from mouth or throat discomfort
How is dehydration treated?
If you suspect your baby is becoming dehydrated, continue breastfeeding or bottle feeding as much as baby will allow, and call your doctor. Your doctor may want to see your baby to assess her condition. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends giving baby oral rehydration solutions (ORS), including electrolyte liquids such as Pedialyte® and Gastrolyte®, to replenish the water and salts your baby has lost.
Try these specific remedies for various dehydration circumstances:
- fever – offer your baby plenty of liquids to make up for fluids lost through feverish sweating
- diarrhea – avoid fruit juices as they may worsen diarrhea, and do not administer diarrhea medicine unless directed to do so by your baby’s doctor
- vomiting – frequently offer small amounts of fluid, such as an electrolyte liquid
- overheating – give your baby more fluids than usual during hot weather spells
- refusing to eat – ask your doctor about acetaminophen or ibuprofen to ease baby’s discomfort and make it easier for her to eat or drink
If your baby exhibits signs of serious dehydration, go immediately to the emergency room or call 911. The doctors may place her on IVs until she’s safely rehydrated.
The obvious way to prevent dehydration is by making sure your baby drinks plenty of fluids. “Continue to breastfeed or bottle-feed her as often as possible,” says Gregory. “If she’s 4 months or older, supplement her food by adding water to it. If she’s eating solids, you can offer even more water.”
Be aware of the climate surrounding your baby. If you are warm and uncomfortable, she probably is, too. Overheating is common during warm-weather months. Don’t swaddle baby in blankets and warm clothes when you’re wearing shorts and a ponytail… dress baby appropriately for conditions. When outdoors, look for cool shady spots; when indoors, keep rooms cool and well-ventilated.
Dehydration can range from mild to moderate to severe. Being aware of the causes and symptoms will help you catch dehydration in its earliest stages and before it turns life-threatening.
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