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Dehydration in Children

Dehydration occurs when the body loses too much water. This can occur if a child stops drinking fluids or loses large amounts of fluid through diarrhea, vomiting, or sweating. Dehydration decreases the amount of blood that circulates to the child's organs.

Dehydration in babies and young children can develop rapidly and be very dangerous. Watch closely for early signs of dehydration any time your child has a high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, or is too sick to drink.

A baby or young child will not be able to tell you if he or she is feeling dehydrated, so you must look for the symptoms.

Dehydration in baby and young child

Severe dehydration means:

  • The baby may be very sleepy and hard to wake up.
  • The baby may have a very dry mouth and very dry eyes (no tears).
  • The baby may have no wet diapers in 12 or more hours.

Moderate dehydration means:

  • The baby may have a soft, sunken spot on the head.
  • The baby may have no wet diapers in 6 hours.
  • The baby may have a dry mouth and dry eyes (fewer tears than usual).

Mild dehydration means:

  • The baby may pass a little less urine than usual.

Dehydration in older child

Severe dehydration means:

  • The child's mouth and eyes may be extremely dry.
  • The child may pass little or no urine in 12 or more hours.
  • The child may not seem alert or able to think clearly.
  • The child may be too weak or dizzy to stand.
  • The child may pass out.

Moderate dehydration means:

  • The child may be a lot more thirsty than usual.
  • The child's mouth and eyes may be drier than usual.
  • The child may pass little or no urine in 8 or more hours.
  • The child may feel dizzy when he or she stands or sits up.

Mild dehydration means:

  • The child may be more thirsty than usual.
  • The child may pass less urine than usual.

Last Revised: May 15, 2013

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine

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