Treating Dehydration in Adults and Children Over 12
Call 911 if the person has:
- Extreme thirst
- Dry skin, mouth, and mucous membranes
- Little or no urination for 12 hours or more
- Increased heart rate and breathing
- Lethargy or fatigue
- Light-headedness, dizziness, confusion, or change in mental status
- Dehydration due to heat stroke
1. Replace Fluids
For mild dehydration or while waiting for medical care for an adult with severe dehydration that is not due to heat stroke:
- The person should try to drink 2 quarts of fluid, such as water, juice, or sports drinks (clear fluids, best), in 2 to 4 hours. But it is better to drink small amounts of fluid often (sips every few minutes), because drinking too much fluid at once can induce vomiting.
- The person should drink at least 10 glasses of liquid a day to replace lost fluids.
- If the person is elderly, fluid replacement may need to be done slowly. Consult a doctor.
- If the person is vomiting, try ice chips, popsicles, and small sips of fluid.
- If the person is recovering from diarrhea, consider that some sports drinks contain a lot of sugar, which can worsen diarrhea.
2. When to Call a Doctor for Mild Dehydration
Seek medical help if:
- The person’s symptoms get worse or don't improve within 24 hours.
- You think a prescription medication such as a diuretic caused the dehydration.
3. Follow Up
- For mild dehydration, the person should rest for 24 hours and keep drinking fluids, even if symptoms improve. Fluid replacement may take up to a day and a half.
- If dehydration is moderate to severe, fluids may need to be replaced intravenously (IV) in the hospital.