Dehydration occurs when the amount of water leaving the body is greater than the amount being taken in. This can be a serious condition for anyone, but particularly for young children under the age of 2. Learning to spot the symptoms of dehydration can help you determine when to call a doctor or seek immediate medical attention.
Mild to Moderate Dehydration Symptoms
Older children might tell their parents that they feel sick or thirsty when they are dehydrated, but children younger than 2 usually cannot effectively express themselves with words. This is why parents need to be more vigilant at spotting the signs of dehydration, such as lethargy, dry mouth or lips, irritability, fussiness and not producing any tears when crying. Babies who are dehydrated often go more than six hours without wetting a diaper. When a dehydrated baby does urinate, the urine in the diaper might look darker than normal or have a stronger odor. Call a doctor if your child displays any of these symptoms.
Severe Dehydration Symptoms
If your child is severely dehydrated, it is crucial that you seek medical attention as soon as possible. Signs of severe dehydration include sunken eyes, excessive sleepiness and excessive fussiness. Babies with severe dehydration also might have cold or splotchy hands or feet and could have sunken soft spots on their heads. Some babies with severe hydration could become comatose.
You might be able to correct mild dehydration by providing your child with a electrolyte beverage, such as Pedialyte or Infalyte. However, always call a doctor before giving such a beverage to your infant to make sure it is appropriate. Continue to offer your baby formula or breast milk as well. MedLine Plus recommends, in general, giving small amounts of fluid, using a teaspoon or syringe, rather than large amounts of fluid at one time. This is because drinking large amounts of fluid at one time may cause the child to spit it back up. If your baby is severely dehydrated, take him to an emergency room. The doctors might need to hook him up to an intravenous tube, or IV, to rehydrate him.
Always keep an eye out for the signs of dehydration in your child, but some situations warrant closer attention. Children are more likely to become dehydrated if they have a fever, diarrhea or are vomiting. Dehydration also can occur when a child sweats excessively from being overheated. Having a sore throat or sores in the mouth can cause a baby or young child to refuse to drink, which also might lead to dehydration.