The Good, The Bad & The Dehydrated

Dehydration can occur at any age, but it is most dangerous for babies, small children, and older adults. So writes a medical authority on the topic. It is also one of the most common symptoms encountered in little people of this age. Dehydration is the condition where there’s insufficient fluids in the body.

Several signs that your toddler may exhibit if he is dehydrated include:

  • More than 6 hours without a wet diaper
  • Urine that looks darker and smells stronger than usual
  • Lethargy
  • A dry, sticky mouth, gums and lips
  • Little or no tears while crying
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation

For severe dehydration, the following symptoms may be observed:

  • Sunken fontanels (the soft spots of a baby’s head)
  • Sunken eyes
  • Excessive sleepiness or fussiness
  • Hands and feet that feel cold and look splotchy

Babies and children are more prone to dehydration than adults. This is especially when a toddler takes in less fluid than he loses because of vomiting, fever, diarrhoea or sweating.

Dehydration is often caused by any viral infection that causes vomiting and diarrhoea, or sores in the mouth which makes it difficult for the toddler to eat or drink.

Dehydration may also occur due to bacterial infections, parasitic infections, increased sweating in a hot environment, excessive urination and conditions such as cystic fibrosis which prevents fluids from being absorbed.

Treat them right

In toddlers, dehydration can range from mild to severe or lifethreatening. Children can get dangerously dehydrated in the blink of an eye.

Treatment is given based on the severity of dehydration:

Mild dehydration

The doctor will recommend some oral rehydration fluids or isotonic drinks that contain electrolytes to replace the water and salt lost.

If the child is able to drink fluids and has no dangerous underlying illness or infection present, you will be sent home with instructions on how to rehydrate your baby orally.

Moderate dehydration

In this scenario, your baby will be hospitalised, and a tube placed into a vein (also called an IV – intravenous - drip) to inject fluids directly into his body. In the meantime, any concurrent illness that caused the dehydration may be treated.

Once your child is able to take fluids orally, he may then be sent home with instructions on what to look out for and home oral rehydration.

Severe dehydration

The child is admitted into the hospital for continued IV fluid replacement and observation with further examination to identify and treat the cause of dehydration.

Water your child

It is almost impossible to prevent dehydration caused by a viral infection. The key thing is to spot the symptoms early and provide fluid replacement therapy quickly.

If your little one is suffering from diarrhoea, do not give fruit juice or over-the-counter diarrhoea medication unless the doctor prescribes it as it may worsen the condition.

In the case where you feel your baby is suffering from dehydration, an isotonic drink should help. Seek medical care if you are unsure.

Older toddlers may be chronically dehydrated for various reasons. To make sure you’re watering your toddler right, always offer fluid, especially water:

  • On warm days
  • If activity level is high or your child is sweating
  • If your child is suffering from dehydration symptoms such as fever, vomiting and diarrhea

You should also check for sore throat, ulcers or sores if your toddler is refusing to eat and drink, encourage him or her to drink water for health and teach him to learn to appreciate the taste of water.