Even the tiniest of bodies need a lot of fluids to function well and stay healthy. The human body is constantly losing water through urine, stool, sweat, tears, and from evaporation through the skin. When the body cannot replace lost fluids with new fluids fast enough, it can become dehydrated. Mild dehydration is often easily treated, but very severe dehydration can actually require hospitalization.
Here is a description of the signs of dehydration in children and how to know when a child with a fever is at risk for mild dehydration. By paying attention to the early warning signs of dehydration, parents can prevent more serious medical complications.
Dehydration is common among children who are experiencing fevers, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive sweating, or who are participating in strenuous physical activities. In babies, one unsettling symptom of dehydration occurs when the soft spot on the top of the head appears to be sunken in. Dehydrated babies may also urinate less, resulting in fewer diaper changes needed, and they may shed less tears when they cry.
Toddlers may exhibit signs of dry or cracked lips, have dry or cold skin, and have darker colored urine than normal. They also may be sleepier than usual, have low energy throughout the day, and have a quicker-than-normal heart rate or breathing rate. If fluids are not restored to a child’s body, he or she may become delirious or even unconscious.
Dehydration that is brought on by intense exercise or very hot weather conditions can cause other symptoms as well. For example, untreated dehydration can lead to fever-like symptoms, like the chills, and even hyperthermia. This occurs because the body is becoming too overheated, and the normal point of body temperature is altered. It is very important to stop physical activity and cool the body off as quickly as possible to prevent these symptoms from getting worse.
As a general rule, the higher that fevers creep up, the more likely a child is to become dehydrated. Fevers that are accompanied by flu-like symptoms, like vomiting and diarrhea, are even worse because of the extra fluids lost. Young children may not be able to communicate to parents that they are thirsty or get a drink of water themselves. This is why parents must look for the early warning signs of dehydration and provide an adequate source of water to sick children at all times.
Oral rehydration solutions that contain water and electrolytes are often recommended for infants and children who have lost fluids due to sickness. These solutions should be provided until the child’s urine is clear, even if only small amounts can be tolerated at a time. Breastfed babies should continue nursing during rehydration unless vomiting occurs repeatedly. To help bring down a high fever that is making the dehydration worse, PediaCare’s Fever Reducer & Pain Reliver is recommended for infants and children up to three years old.
In severe cases of dehydration, salts and fluids may need to be delivered intravenously in an emergency room to aid recovery. As a preventative measure, parents should provide extra water or juice at the first signs of vomiting or diarrhea rather than waiting for dehydration to occur.
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