Most of us are familiar with dehydration, and having suffered it at some point in our lives we usually know what to do to treat it. But the story is different for babies and children, and parents need to know what to do.
In babies and children, dehydration can come from two causes. Either your little one hasn’t had enough fluids on a hot day when they’re active and sweating, or they’re dehydrated from vomiting, diarrhoea or a combination of both. Stomach flu can be very common in young children, so it’s often a struggle to manage proper hydration.
Knowing the symptoms, understanding how to treat, rehydrate, and ultimately, prevent dehydration are skills all parents should have up their sleeve.
Signs Of Dehydration
There are a few clear signs of dehydration, but your child may only exhibit one of these, so don’t expect they will have them all. Some of these signs include:
- Sticky or dry mouth,
- Small number, or no, tears when crying,
- Sunken appearance of eyes,
- Sunken appearance of soft spot (in babies),
- Lack or urine (children), or no wet nappies for 6-8 hours (babies) or just small amount of dark yellow urine,
- Dry, cool skin,
- Irritability and lethargy,
- Fatigue or dizziness (older child)
The key to treating dehydration effectively is to recognise it early before the body is in too much of a state of stress. In order to treat dehydration, the fluids that a child or baby has lost will need to be replaced until their fluid levels are at normal again.
When dehydration is milk, from overexertion, kids are usually thirsty and will seek to replace the fluids themselves. They should be allowed to drink as much as they want, but not so fast as to make them feel sick. Plain water is best for this. The child should also stop any activity, and rest in a cool and shaded area, or indoors.
How To Rehydrate From Illness
Rehydrating someone who is suffering from dehydration from illness is a different ball game. When the stomach is sensitive and the body exhausted, drinking too much water can make things worse. Not to mention that children with stomach flu probably won’t be interested in drinking large volumes of water, or will struggle to keep it down.
So, in these situations the key is to get them drinking an oral rehydration solution, or ORS. You can buy this at many grocery stores and virtually all pharmacies. Essentially, ORS is a fluid that contains exactly the right balance of sugar and salt to be absorbed by your child’s body. Even with vomiting, you can still rehydrate your little one with this method.
Most health professionals recommend starting with a small amount, about 1-2 tsp worth. For small children, this can be given via syringe instead of on the spoon. It’s not much, but it adds up quickly. Give them a small amount every few minutes, and as they become more hydrated, this can be increased. Check the serving suggestion on the side for the right amount for your child’s age and weight.
For breastfeeding babies, you can continue to breastfeed while they’re rehydrating using ORS, just by giving it in between feeds. If they’re vomiting continually, do not breastfeed. For formula fed babies, stop feeding the formula at first while giving them the ORS, but start again when they can keep the fluid down.
If your child isn’t able to keep down any liquids at all, and they’re continually suffering with vomiting and diarrhoea, you may need to take them to the doctor to prevent them from becoming very dehydrated.
How To Prevent Dehydration
Preventing dehydration seems easy, but in practice it cam be a bit of a challenge. Basically, it involves reading your child’s situation, and being proactive with managing their fluid intake. So, when your little one is sick or physically active, make sure they’re getting enough fluids. Keep in mind, they need to consume more fluids then they’re losing from sweating, vomiting or diarrhoea.
Of course there are things that stand in the way. If your child struggles to drink because of a sore throat, ease the pain with anti-inflammatories, and offer cold drinks or icey poles. You can even get ORS as popsicles.
It pays to remember that thirst is actually not an early sign of dehydration. Kids should be consuming fluids every 20 minutes or so during physical activity, not just when they’re thirsty. If a child is thirsty, they might already be dehydrated. Not to mention that quenching a thirst doesn’t necessarily mean all the lost fluid has been replaced.
How do you keep your kids hydrated?
If you become concerned about any symptoms, please seek immediate medical attention – we have some hotlines and suggested websites for further information and advice – https://www.stayathomemum.com.au/my-kids/babies/important-hotlines-websites/
SAHM takes no responsibility for any illness, injury or death caused by misuse of this information. All information provided is correct at time of publication.