The most suitable means to rehydrate your child largely depends on:
Most children with mild dehydration can be well-managed at home. It must be noted that dehydration involves a loss of both fluids and electrolytes (such as sodium, potassium, and chloride) from the body. Thus, it is preferable to give your child solutions that contain electrolytes rather than plain water.
Several oral rehydration solutions (ORS), such as Pedialyte, Enfalyte, gastrolyte, hydralyte, and repalyte, are available over the counter at pharmacies and supermarkets. If ORS is not available, the doctor may recommend other fluids.
You may try giving your child home-made fluids, such as clear soups, apple juice, or their usual milk. Avoid giving sugary drinks (such as sweetened juices, sodas, or sports drinks) to your child because they can worsen the symptoms.
Rehydrating infants (babies up to 12 months of age)
Babies tend to lose water quickly from their bodies and are, thus, at a higher risk of dehydration. For infants younger than six months, you must consult a doctor if there are any signs of dehydration.
For mild dehydration in infants younger than six months, the following tips may help:
- Dehydration in breastfed babies: Keep breastfeeding your baby while trying to feed them more often to replace the lost fluids. Breastfed babies may be given ORS or water for the first 12 hours. You must contact your doctor if your baby only takes ORS and no breastmilk or formula milk for 24 hours.
- Dehydration in bottle-fed babies: Give your baby ORS instead of formula milk for the first 12 hours. After 12 hours, keep feeding your baby with frequent but small quantities of formula milk. You must contact your doctor if your baby only takes ORS and no formula milk for 24 hours.
Rehydrating children older than one year
- Give ORS in sips to prevent vomiting
- You may give one to two teaspoons of ORS every few minutes or about one cup (250 mL) of ORS every one to four hours
- The amount of fluid your child needs depends on their age and severity of dehydration
- Encourage your child to eat small and frequent meals and drink other fluids as well along with the ORS
- You may give electrolyte ice pops to older children
- Ensure that they get adequate rest
- Monitor the fluid output (wet diapers or passage of the urine)
When to call your doctor
You must seek urgent medical help if your child shows any signs of severe dehydration, such as:
- Lack of tears
- Parched mouth and tongue
- Extremely drowsy or difficult to wake up
- Fainting or unconsciousness
- No urine passed in the last 12 hours
- Sunken soft spot
Medical help must be sought if your child:
- Refuses to take any fluids or food
- Is extremely irritable or lethargic
- Has some chronic health condition
- Has vomited more than once over the last 24 hours
- Is younger than one year
- Has cold skin especially over the hands and legs
- Has decreased urine frequency or passed dark yellow urine
- Has diarrhea that does not improve
- Has green, brown, or blood-tinged vomiting
- Has fever, rash, or any other concerning signs
The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne. Dehydration. https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Dehydration/
Kids Health. Dehydration. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/dehydration.html
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