How is dehydration treated?
As is often the case in medicine, prevention is the important first step in the treatment of dehydration. (Please see the home treatment and prevention sections.)
Fluid replacement is the treatment for dehydration. This may be attempted by replacing fluid by mouth, but if this fails, intravenous fluid (IV) may be required. Should oral rehydration be attempted, frequent small amounts of clear fluids should be used.
Clear fluids include:
- water (please note that water alone is not necessarily safe to use in infants and can lead to significant electrolyte problems, for this reason, Pedialyte or other balanced electrolyte solutions should be used.
- clear broths,
- Jell-O, and
- other replacement fluids that may contain electrolytes (Pedialyte, Gatorade, Powerade, etc.)
Decisions about the use of intravenous fluids depend upon the health care professional's assessment of the extent of dehydration and the ability for the patient to recover from the underlying cause.
The success of the rehydration therapy can be monitored by urine output. When the body is dry, the kidneys try to hold on to as much fluid as possible, urine output is decreased, and the urine itself is concentrated. As treatment occurs, the kidneys sense the increased amount of fluid, and urine output increases.
Medications may be used to treat underlying illnesses and to control fever, vomiting, or diarrhea.