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Treating Dehydration in Children Under 12 Years Old

Call 911 if the child:

  • Has extremely dry mouth or no tears
  • Is lethargic
  • Is older and does not urinate in 12 or more hours
  • Isn't alert or able to think clearly
  • Passes out
  • Is too weak or dizzy to stand

1. Call a Doctor

In young children, mild to moderate dehydration can happen very easily, particularly if the child has diarrhea or is vomiting. Contact your child's pediatrician if your child:

  • Is not drinking enough or eating enough
  • Looks tired
  • Has dark yellow urine or decreased urination
  • Has dry mouth and eyes
  • Is cranky or irritable
  • Vomits more than once
  • Is under 1 year old

2. Replace Fluids

For dehydration in an infant up to 1 year old:

  • If you breast-feed, nurse more often.
  • If you bottle feed, give your baby the usual amount of fluid, unless the baby is vomiting. If your baby is vomiting, give smaller amounts more frequently. For example, instead of 6 ounces every 4 hours, give 3 ounces every 2 hours. If she vomits more than once, call your doctor.
  • If your baby eats solid food, cereal, strained bananas, and mashed potatoes, also provide fluids.
  • Give an oral rehydration solution such as Pedialyte, if possible. It replaces salt, sugar, potassium, and other nutrients. Ask your doctor what type and quantity to use.

For mild dehydration in a child age 1 to 11:

  • Give extra fluids in frequent, small sips, especially if the child is vomiting.
  • Choose clear soup, clear soda, or Pedialyte, if possible.
  • Give popsicles, ice chips, and cereal mixed with milk for added water or fluid.
  • Continue a regular diet.

3. Follow Up

  • For mild dehydration, have your child rest for 24 hours and keep drinking fluids, even if symptoms get better. Fluid replacement may take up to a day and a half. Continue on your child's regular diet as well.
  • For severe dehydration, the child may need IV fluids in the hospital. If you feel that your child is not improving or is getting worse, see your doctor right away.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Daniel Brennan, MD on October 26, 2013

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