Treating Dehydration in Children

Medically Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on September 14, 2019

Call 911 if your child:

  • Is less than 1 month old
  • Has extreme lethargy
  • Has skin that doesn't bounce back when pinched
  • Is breathing fast
  • Is confused

Dehydration is a risk in babies and toddlers, especially if they have vomiting, diarrhea, or fever. Take signs of dehydration seriously.

Call Doctor If:

  • You are worried that your child may be dehydrated.
  • Your child has been vomiting for more than 12 hours or is unable to tolerate small amounts of liquids without vomiting.
  • Your child has had diarrhea for more than 24 hours.
  • You see signs of dehydration like dry diapers or no urine for eight hours, dry lips, sunken soft spot on the head, and crying with no tears.

1. Cool Off

  • If your child has been in the sun or heat, get into a cool place.
  • Dress your child in cool, lightweight clothing. This will also help if they have a fever.

2. Offer Fluids

  • Give fluids in small amounts. Avoid juice or soda, opting for ice chips instead. If the child vomits afterward, wait 20 to 30 minutes and give the fluids again. If a child has vomited two or more times, call your pediatrician.
  • If your infant is breastfeeding, continue to nurse your baby. Let them nurse more often and for a shorter amount of time.
  • Your pediatrician may want you to give your baby small amounts of oral electrolyte solution. Check the amount with your doctor.
  • Give toddlers about 1 tablespoon of oral electrolyte solution, ice chips, water, ice pops, or clear broth every 15 minutes.

3. Go Slowly

  • Encourage your child to take small frequent sips instead of drinking a lot at once.
  • Offer Popsicles made with rehydration solution.

4. Observe Your Child

  • If your child's symptoms aren't getting better, or your child continues to vomit, call your pediatrician or go to the emergency room.
  • If your child is vomiting, do not give them acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Don't give aspirin to a child under 16 years old.