Toddler holding parent's hand

Dehydration in children and infants

Dehydration may not sound like a major problem, but it can be, particularly in young children and infants. You see, infants and young children don’t know their own bodies. They might not be able to recognise the signs that they are ill. One of the most common signs of dehydration is fatigue. If a child is tired, they’re just going to take a nap. They might not tell their parents that something is wrong and will instead just curl up on their bed. Taking a nap halfway through the day doesn’t sound serious at all does it? On a hot day, though, it can make the situation a lot worse.

This is why parents need to understand the causes of dehydration in your child, the signs and the different treatments. Let’s start by thinking about the most common causes.


What Can Cause Children To Become Dehydrated?

Well, one of the most common causes is obviously the heat. In the sweltering heat waves the world is experiencing right now, dehydration needs to be seen as a danger. Parents should be taking bottles of water for children if they’re playing at the park. They should be watching how long children stay out in the sun or indoors without a drink. Even just making sure young children drink one or two full glasses of water a day could reduce the chances of dehydration.

Of course, hot weather isn’t the only issue. Babies tend to get dehydrated during times when they are sick or ill. Especially if they have symptoms such as being sickness or diarrhea. It can be incredibly frightening to see your baby with these types of symptoms. It might shock you so much that you don’t even think about other effects like dehydration. In situations like this, babies are emptying their bodies of all fluids. This is what causes the problem. You might know this by the way you feel after you have sickness yourself. It seems like your body is completely drained.

Your baby or young child may also be at risk of dehydration if they are urinating more often or sweating a lot. The good news is that this cause is very rare in babies and young children. Still, it is something that you want to watch out for and that you need to be aware of.


Knowing The Symptoms and Signs of Dehydration

It’s all very well telling you the causes. But can you recognise the signs? If you’ve been out on a hot day, you might already have seen signs of children suffering from dehydration. They are clearer to spot than you might think. The common physical signs are chapped lips, dry skin, and sluggish behaviour. Mental symptoms might include problems with concentration and of course, feeling sleepy. If your child isn’t focusing while you’re talking to them, that could be a red light.

Other symptoms? Well, they do tend to vary. In severe cases of dehydration, you might notice sunken eyes and they might look quite dry. Usually, if you ask a young child if they are thirsty, they will tell you. Babies are the problem because they can’t. That’s when you really do need to be careful, and the signs may not be quite as clear.

Your baby might be dehydrated if they have dry tears. One of the more terrifying physical signs is certainly a noticeable dip in the top of the head. This looks a lot worse than it is and it’s just a warning sign your baby needs fluids.

You need to be aware that low energy in a baby might be a sign of dehydration. Babies will naturally move around, fidget and make noises. They explore the world, reaching out with their hands and fingers even when they are lying in bed. If your little one isn’t doing any of these things, it could be a sign of a physical problem like dehydration.

There’s one other rather weird way you can tell if a baby is dehydrated. That’s by the colour of their urine. Generally speaking, everyone’s urine should be a pale, yellow. If it looks dark, this could be a sign the body isn’t getting enough fluids. This is true for babies, young children and even adults.


Getting The Right Treatment

You may be able to hydrate young children by just giving them a drink. Of course, the problem with this is that some kids hate water. Our recommendation here is that you use an added flavour so that your child still gets the benefit of a full glass of water. If your child hates water, have a look to see what the best drinks are for hydration.

It’s worth pointing out that different foods can be better for hydration. For instance, if your child is old enough, they might love a tasty bowl of juicy fruit.

You can also try an ORT (Oral Rehydration Therapy). There are plenty of different forms of ORT such as salt tablets that might be suitable for young children or babies. ORS Hydration Tablets is one of them. Babies are usually given small doses regularly if they show signs of dehydration. ORT might sound like medicine and it is, but it doesn’t usually have the horrible taste. In fact, there’s plenty of ORT solutions that have added artificial flavours like black currant. This makes it a lot easier for parents because children won’t mind taking them.

In some situations, you may want to take your child to a doctor. It’s a good idea if they are showing signs of severe dehydration. For instance, if they are not moving at all and refuse to eat, there’s a good chance they are dehydrated. Although bare in mind a doctor probably will use some form of ORT to make them better.

The key thing to remember is to keep an eye on the situation. This is the best form of defence against dehydration. Even if your child does get dehydrated, it can be easily remedied if you notice it early on.

We hope we haven’t scared you too much with this article. Dehydration can be a serious problem but only if you don’t know the signs. Now that you do, you should have no issues keeping your little ones fit, healthy and well hydrated.

FAQ about dehydration in children

What if my child is vomiting?

If children and babies are vomiting, the cause is often gastroenteritis. It is a common condition which typically lead to vomiting and diarrhoea. It is especially common in young children. This usually goes away by itself within a week, but making sure to rehydrate the child during the course of the infection is important. During diarrhoea and vomiting, the body loses a lot of minerals, and ORS hydration tablets is a safe option for rehydration. A very similar formula is actually what the WHO uses to rehydrate children in third world countries. While all this is important, you need of course to make sure your children gets medical care if you suspect that the cause of the vomiting is not a typical stomach infection.