If you’re a parent, it’s important to know diarrhea carries a risk of dehydration — especially in children.
We all lose some body water daily in our sweat, tears, urine, and stool. However, kids can sometimes lose large amounts of water and salts through fever, diarrhea, and vomiting. If they are unable to replace the fluids, kids can become dehydrated.
Our bodies require a certain amount of water and electrolytes to stay healthy, and losing fluids can throw this balance out of whack. The best way to prevent dehydration is to make sure kids get plenty of fluids when they are sick — consuming more fluids than they lose. To do this, make sure your child:
- drinks plenty of milk, formula, and water — according to age recommendations.
- avoids food and drinks containing lots of sugar.
- steers clear of caffeine in soft drinks, tea, or coffee.
Know the signs
Learning the early signs of dehydration can ensure you respond quickly and begin treatment. Younger infants and children should be watched carefully, because they’re more prone to dehydration than older children and teens.
Replacing and restoring the levels of body fluids to normal is important in treating dehydration. Strategies are different based on the child’s age and the cause of the dehydration.
If your child is vomiting, it’s recommended that you give sips of fluid, rather than encourage him or her to drink a whole glass at one sitting. Parents should give a teaspoon every 10 minutes, as a child’s system is more likely to keep fluids down in small doses.
Phenergan — a prescription medication used to treat vomiting — and other similar drugs should not be given to children under 2 years of age for any reason, are not recommended for the treatment of vomiting in children unless the problem is severe, and should be used with extreme caution in older children. Sometimes, severe dehydration in children must be treated with intravenous (IV) fluids in the hospital.
When to call
Sometimes, fluids alone won’t do the trick, and you may need to find alternate methods to rehydrate your child. Consult your pediatrician before giving your child antidiarrheal medications or other supplements, such as Pedialyte or Infalyte, to replace lost water and salts. And always call your pediatrician if your child 6 months of age or younger is experiencing diarrhea or signs of dehydration.
Also notify your pediatrician if your child shows the following signs of dehydration:
- Less frequent urination (fewer than six diapers a day for babies)
- Lack of tears when crying
- A dry, sticky mouth
- Extreme thirst
- Sunken eyes
- No appetite for fluids
- Bloody stools
- Frequent vomiting
- Weight loss
- Fever of more than 102 degrees
To contact us or to make an appointment with a specialist, call 423-778-2564.