Dehydration in babies and children
Dehydration occurs when your baby or child’s body is losing more liquid than it is taking in. This affects the levels of salts and sugars in their bodies and an inbalance can have a knock on effect on many of the body’s functions. Water makes up two thirds of the human body and as babies have such a low body weight even the smallest fluid losses can really affect them.
Dehydration can occur for many reasons such as not drinking adequate fluids, sweating due to illness, high activity levels or over-heating, or from illnesses such as diarrhoea, vomiting and fever. One other cause of dehydration is diabetes as your child’s kidneys will be passing more urine in an effort to reduce your child’s blood glucose levels.
Signs of dehydration
- Passing urine less frequently – so less wet nappies
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy – so toddlers may not walk steadily.
- Babies may become lethargic or irritable
- Dry mouth
- Skin may become loose, pale or mottled
- Eyes and fontanelle (soft spot on top of their head) may become sunken and they may have cold hands/feet.
- Baby may not be producing tears when they cry.
Tips and recommendations
- If your baby or child is showing signs of dehydration bring them to the doctor as soon as possible.
- Babies will often stop drinking breast milk or bottles if they are suffering from a sore throat so it is important to keep an open mind as to what may be the problem and to always get your baby checked over if you are at all concerned. If they have been diagnosed with a sore throat by the doctor it may help to give a dose of calpol or nurofen half an hour before a feed so that they will have less pain when they attempt to swallow their milk. Always follow dosage instructions on the pack.
- Little and often with fluids is better than too much at once for a sick baby.
- It is important to keep your little one hydrated with liquids containing water, sugar and salt. Don’t just offer water as it is not enough on its own. Diluted fruit juice or rehydration salts should be given. In Ireland Dioralyte is sold in sachets for use in children over one year of age. If your infant is under one year then you will need to seek medical advice before you can give Dioralyte as children under one can become dehydrated quickly and extra caution is needed. Dioralyte is used to replace the salt, glucose and other minerals that are lost during episodes of diarrhoea and vomiting. It is important to make these up as per the manufactures instructions (dissolve in 200mls of fresh drinking water or freshly boiled and cooled water – this can be kept in the fridge for up to 24 hours or used within one hour if stored at room temperature).
- If you are breast or bottle feeding then continue to feed as normal. You should give oral rehydration sachets (Dioralyte) in between feeds or after each watery stool but don’t stop giving your baby milk.
- If you child won’t drink Dioralyte then you can use flat 7up (boiled and cooled to remove the fizz). Avoid giving fruit juice or fizzy drinks as these can make diarrhoea worse.
- Keep an eye on how many wet nappies your child is having – if they are persistently dry contact your doctor as this can be a sign of dehydration.
- Monitor the colour of the urine, which should be a pale yellow colour, if your baby’s urine turns a dark yellow or brown colour this indicates that they are getting dehydrated and you will need to contact your doctor for advice.
- Your child may not have much of an appetite if they are feeling ill and if they are dehydrated then it’s important not to give solid food until they have drank enough fluids and signs of dehydration have gone.
I hope you have found this article helpful and if you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact me by sending a private message to the WonderBaba facebook page (www.facebook.com/wonderbabacare) or by calling me (Sheena) at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 on 012600262. I’m always happy to help!