How To Know If My Child Is Dehydrated?

Summer is back again! Worried if your child is drinking enough water? If not, you should be, as dehydration can lead to unwanted health complications. Find out what you can do about it.

By Aarthi Arun

How To Know If My Child Is Dehydrated?
Hot summer days call for more water intake

Your child loses water every day in the form of sweat, tears and urine. Under normal circumstances, your child will replace the lost liquids by drinking water and other drinks like juices and soups. When your child's water loss is not replenished, she gets dehydrated. This can happen when your child plays in the sun for a long time or suffers from fever, vomiting or diarrhoea. Young children are particularly susceptible to dehydration as their little bodies cannot store much water as the adults do. So, even a small loss can dehydrate her. Your child should drink enough water such that her urine is pale in colour. The following are other indicators of dehydration.

Also read: 10 Reasons Why Your Pre-schooler Should Drink Boiled Water

Symptoms

Here are the symptoms to look out for when you're wondering if your child is dehydrated.

  • dry mouth and cracked lips
  • no urine for more than 8 hours or dark coloured urine
  • sunken soft spot on the head
  • no tears while crying
  • dry or cold hands and feet
  • tiredness or low energy levels
  • irritability or confusion

Causes

Being out in the hot sun for a prolonged time puts your child in the risk for dehydration. Children don't sweat as much as the adults, and their bodies heat up quickly during physical activities. When your child doesn't drink enough water – which most children often forget while playing – he may get dehydrated. 

Common illnesses like viral infections can cause your child's food intake to be less than usual. Furthermore, when your child has severe throat pain, he may refuse to eat or drink. This can also lead to dehydration. Repeated vomiting and diarrhoea due to stomach flu can deprive your child's fluid reserves too.

Prevention and treatment at home

When your child is having fun in the sun, make sure to offer her water every twenty minutes. It is also a good idea to have a shady place to play instead of directly playing under the sun. In hot summers, let your child play in the water to cool off.

If your child is down with fever, it is important that your child is well hydrated. Include milk, soups and juice to her diet. Dehydration can occur quickly when your child is suffering from bouts of diarrhoea or vomiting. Since she is losing water, you should constantly restore the water supply for her body. Milk and juice are not ideal with tummy troubles as they can aggravate the condition. 

If you're breastfeeding your baby, you should continue doing so to keep her hydrated. Formula-fed babies can take their formula in the normal consistency, there is no need to dilute it. Drinks that are high in sugar are a strict no-no because they can make your child's dehydration worse.

For mild to moderate dehydration, the simple yet effective treatment is rehydration in the form of ORS (Oral Rehydration Solutions) that are widely available in the pharmacies to your child. They come in a wide range of flavours, so it is easy to make your child drink it. Remember to follow the instructions on the package.

When to see a doctor?

Though dehydration can be treated at home, some severe cases warrant for a visit to the doctor. Here are the symptoms to watch out for:

  • Your child is younger than 6 months
  • Your child is not showing any improvement
  • There is blood in your child's stool or vomit
  • Your child's vomit is green in colour
  • Your child refuses any fluids or ORS
  • Your child has diarrhoea for more than 10 days
  • Your child develops a new symptom

When your child is severely dehydrated, she may have a faster heartbeat or breathe rapidly. She may become delirious or unconscious. In such a case, take her to a doctor immediately. During an episode of dehydration, your child is not only losing the water, but she is also losing essential minerals like Sodium, Potassium and Calcium. These minerals are critical for maintaining fluid balance in the body, so if not treated on time, dehydration can lead to severe complications like brain damage and coma. In some cases, dehydration can be deadly too. So, it is imperative that you keep an eye on your child for any worsening symptoms.

Mild dehydration is inevitable in young children, especially so during hot summer months. But, worry not. With the right amount of fluids and your loving care, she will be up on his feet in no time.

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