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  • Dehydration Can Happen Fast in Babies. Here are the Symptoms to Look Out For

    Learn how to spot dehydration in babies and toddlers and how to replenish the fluids they've lost.
    by Kitty Elicay . Published Dec 20, 2018
Dehydration Can Happen Fast in Babies. Here are the Symptoms to Look Out For
  • While we’ve found that the best medicine for a cough and colds is no medicine, experts also stress the importance of keeping your children hydrated by giving them plenty of fluids especially when they are sick.

    Why? Dehydration is a major risk in babies and small children. Their bodies have relatively small fluid reserves, with a high metabolic rate that makes it easy to lose the water and electrolytes that the body needs to function, according to Parents. Losing even a small volume and being unable to replace the lost fluids can make it especially dangerous for them.

    “Issues of dehydration are very, very common; it’s a big reason why we see patients in outpatient pediatric clinic settings, one of the most common reasons for urgent care and emergency department visits,” said Dr. Emily Rose, an assistant professor of clinical emergency medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, in an interview with The New York Times.

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    What causes dehydration?

    Among the most common causes of dehydration is gastroenteritis, vomiting, and diarrhea, but it can also be caused by ailments that make drinking painful, like mouth sores. During flu season, dehydration can happen when a child’s breathing is too heavy or fast that it can interfere with breastfeeding and drinking — the baby will choose to breathe rather than drink, which means that he’ll be losing more fluids, according to Dr. Rose.

    Dehydration can lead to serious complications, according to MayoClinic. These include urinary and kidney problems and seizures. But the most serious, and sometimes life-threatening, is a condition called low blood volume shock (hypovolemic shock), which happens when low blood volume causes a drop in blood pressure and a drop in the amount of oxygen in your body.

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    What are the signs and symptoms of dehydration?

    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, mild to moderate dehydration has the following symptoms:

    • Child plays less than usual
    • Urinates less frequently (for babies, check their diapers — being mildly dehydrated means they have fewer than six wet diapers per day)
    • Parched, dry mouth
    • Fewer tears when crying
    • Sunken soft spot of the head in an infant or toddler
    • Loose stools if dehydration is caused by diarrhea
    • A decrease in bowel movements If dehydration is due to other kinds of fluid loss (i.e. vomiting or lack of fluid intake)

    If your child is experiencing severe dehydration, he will have the following symptoms in addition to the symptoms above:

    • Very fussy
    • Excessively sleepy                       
    • Sunken eyes
    • Cool, discolored hands and feet
    • Wrinkled skin
    • Urinates only one to two times per day
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    How do you treat dehydration?

    Kids who are mildly dehydrated from lots of activity can replenish fluids by drinking as much water as they want, according to KidsHealth. For children with mild to moderate dehydration due to diarrhea from an illness, lost fluids may be replaced using oral rehydration solutions over the course of 3 to 4 hours. If your kids start behaving unusually, like being lethargic and urinating only once or twice a day, it’s better to consult a doctor.

    Babies who are breastfed should continue nursing even during rehydration unless they are vomiting repeatedly. Rehydration solutions can be given between feedings. Formula-fed babies should refrain from drinking formula during rehydration — they can resume as soon as they can keep fluids down without vomiting.

    Babies and toddlers will need assistance in replenishing lost fluid, and Dr. Rose says to ask the pediatrician how much fluid they will need to make up the losses. Give frequent small drinks, either by a spoon, from a dropper or a needleless medication syringe. If children are only mildly dehydrated, parents can use whatever liquid the child is likely to drink, but for severe dehydration, it’s better to use rehydration solutions.

    Can kids eat food when they’re dehydrated? Dr. Rose says that it’s perfectly all right to feed a child who wants to eat. “The more the child is eating, the less a parent has to worry,” she says.

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