Is Your Baby Dehydrated?

If your baby has diarrhea, it's very important that you keep him well hydrated, or you may end up having to go to the emergency room.

Know the Signs and Proper Treatment

If your baby has diarrhea, it's very important that you keep him well hydrated, or you may end up having to go to the emergency room.

Babies, in particular, can get dehydrated very quickly if they have a high output of diarrhea. Their little bodies have relatively small fluid reserves and a high metabolic rate that makes it easy to lose the water and electrolytes the body needs to function. If fluids are not replaced, the outcome can be critical within a matter of days.

Here are some signs of dehydration to watch out for:

  • Sleepiness
  • Irritability
  • Thirst
  • Less elasticity in the skin
  • Eyes and fontanel (or soft spot on head) appear sunken
  • Decrease or absence of tears
  • Dry mouth
  • Decrease number of wet diapers

For your convenience, print the dehydration chart provided.

Doctors often recommend an oral rehydration solution (ORS) such as Pedialyte, Ceralyte, or Gastrolyte, in small and frequent doses, to get a baby's body rehydrated. Even if the baby is vomiting, parents are encouraged to administer the solution. The aim, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, is to prevent the output of fluids from exceeding the intake. The rehydration treatment will not stop the diarrhea, but it will keep the body hydrated until the illness runs its course. A person is considered hydrated if there is a normal urine output -- at least six wet diapers a day in the case of infants and toddlers.

The amount of rehydration fluid you should give your baby depends on her size and the degree of dehydration. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), children weighing less than 10 kg (22 pounds) should drink 60 to 120 ml (2-4 ounces) of ORS for each episode of vomiting or diarrhea. And those weighing more than 10 kg should drink 120 to 240 ml (4-8 ounces) of ORS.

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