Dehydration in Children: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Management Tips for Parents | Health

According to the World Health Organization, dehydration is a condition that results from excessive loss of body water and it is a very common problem in babies and especially in young children. It is a condition in which your body does not have the required amount of water that it needs and now with the onset of summer, they may end up not maintaining their state of hydration for various reasons, this which means they lose a lot more fluid than they consume and end up becoming dehydrated.

Cause :

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr BK Vishwanath Bhat, a pediatrician and physician at Radhakrishna Multi-Specialty Hospital, Bengaluru, explained, “Dehydration means abnormal loss of fluids from the system. It is caused by vomiting, loose stools and excessive sweating. Dehydration is categorized into mild, moderate, and severe. Mild is up to 5% weight loss, 5-10% weight loss is moderate, and more than 10% weight loss is severe dehydration. There are three main types of dehydration where the sodium level is low hypotonic (mainly loss of electrolytes), hypertonic (mainly loss of water) and isotonic (equal loss of water and electrolytes).

Echoing the same, Dr Shashidhar Vishwanath, Senior Consultant in Neonatology and Pediatrics at SPARSH Hospital for Women and Children, said, “When the fluid intake we take in is less than the outflow, there is an imbalance between what goes in and what goes out of your body. It is very common in summer mainly because of vomiting and diarrhea. When children have viral infections, it is called viral gastroenteritis. It is an infection of the belly and the intestine. Every time they vomit or have diarrhea, they lose fluids as well as electrolytes like sodium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate, and other important salts in the body.


Dehydration is seen when there is excessive vomiting and frequent passing of watery stools and exposure to extremely high temperatures which can also cause heat stroke. Dr BK Vishwanath Bhat pointed out: “Mild dehydration of up to 5% weight loss can be easily managed at home and if the weight loss is 5-10% it is called moderate dehydration and if the baby is able to take orals, enough fluids can be given. . If the baby does not take enough liquids, he must be hospitalized. Severe dehydration of >10% weight loss must be admitted.

He added: “Thirst, dry mouth and tongue, no tears when crying, no wet diapers for more than two hours, sunken eyes, cheeks, loss of skin turgidity, sunken soft spot on top of skull, listlessness or irritability are some of the panels. In cases of severe dehydration, one may begin to lose consciousness. Summer is the time for gastroenteritis, and fever is also part of the symptoms, along with vomiting and loose movements.

Since it is caused by reduced water in the body, Dr. Shashidhar Vishwanath pointed out that initially children feel more irritable, thirsty and eventually become more tired and end up being lethargic. He revealed: “They urinate less and less. In extreme cases, the child may become quiet and unresponsive, but this is in very rare cases. They also urinate much less and may also have a fever as this is a sign of infection. These are some of the signs of dehydration.

Dr Shashidhar Vishwanath added: “As the dehydration progresses, their tongues and lips become dry and their eyes look sunken. The eyes are quite sunken in their sockets. If it progresses further, the skin becomes less elastic, losing its natural smoothness. This condition is called “reduced skin turgor”. Eventually, the body stops urinating because it tries to retain the remaining fluid. Not urinating is one of the main signs of dehydration.


According to Dr. BK Vishwanath Bhat, mild dehydration is treated at home with ORS. He said: “Moderate dehydration can be treated at home with ORS and if the child cannot tolerate oral foods, he may need to be admitted for intravenous fluids. Severe dehydration requires admission and IV fluids. Probiotics and zinc supplements have a minimal role in treating dehydration. Antibiotics are given in bacterial infections. By drinking plenty of fluids, we can prevent dehydration during the summer months.

Dr. Shashidhar Vishwanath was also of the opinion that mild dehydration is quite common and easily treatable at home itself. He advised: “When the baby or child drinks less or eats less, the first step is to make sure the child drinks enough fluids. Don’t worry too much about solid foods. Be sure to continue giving them fluids. Water can be a good first option, but it’s best to include something with sugar and salt. Mix one sachet of ORS with one liter of water and continue giving as needed. There is no precise quantity.

He suggested that as long as the child is drinking, you can give it to him, but in cases where the vomiting is severe and the child is unable to retain fluids, then you should see a pediatrician to assess what is going on. and give medicine to the child. reduce vomiting. Dr Shashidhar Vishwanath warned: “In some cases, even when they are given fluids and the vomiting does not stop after giving oral medication, the child may need to be admitted to hospital for intravenous rehydration. The child should be placed on a drip to give fluids through the drip. We give a special liquid that contains salt and sugar.

He said: “The idea of ​​intravenous (IV) rehydration is to make sure that any fluid that the body loses is replaced by the IV. In case of vomiting or severe diarrhea, intravenous rehydration is useful because it allows the stomach to rest. I want to reiterate that only about 1/3 of children who need fluid therapy need to go to hospital and the rest can actually be cared for at home.

Management tips for parents:

Since dehydration is quite common and during the peak of summer almost 30% of patients who visit a doctor are for dehydration, parents should be aware of the condition and pay attention to its symptoms. However, Dr. Shashidhar Vishwanath said parents should not worry too much when solid food intake is less, rather they should focus on the liquid intake of the child. He said: “When children are not well, they won’t want to eat solid foods. They prefer to have something liquid. Parents can give them water, homemade juice, home-prepared ORS solution, or tetra packs of ORS solution that you get from pharmacies.

Dr. Shashidhar Vishwanath has listed the warning signs that a parent should be aware of. These include:

1. When the child is excessively lethargic, tired or excessively irritable

2. When the child has not urinated for 17-18 hours.

3. When there is continuous vomiting and diarrhea, it is best that they be analyzed by the pediatric team.

He advised: “Other precautions include hygienic food, good hygiene, washing hands before eating and washing hands after using the toilet, especially if anyone in the household is vomiting or diarrhea. It is important to maintain hand hygiene. It is best to avoid eating out in restaurants in places with questionable hygiene and, more importantly, parents should be aware of the signs and symptoms of severe dehydration and know when to take the child to the hospital.

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