Dehydration is caused when the body loses more water than it consumes. We all lose water every day through sweat, tears and urine. Just like adults, it can also happen with babies too. Dehydration in babies can happen more frequently as babies have small tummies which mean their water storing capacity is less than average adults.
The causes of dehydration in babies can be fever, diarrhoea or vomiting. Dehydration in toddlers can also happen because of these reasons and especially when they play or perform exercises which make them sweat even more.
Babies have little bodies and they can’t store a lot of liquids, so dehydration can occur fast. Babies can obtain fluids they require from their feedings, if your baby is exposed to extreme temperatures or loses fluids due to puking, diarrhoea or sweating, they can shortly become dehydrated. So, you must take necessary steps to prevent your baby or toddler from being dehydrated.
What causes dehydration in babies or toddlers?
Infants have a considerably smaller storage capacity of water in the body, therefore, babies and toddlers, especially when suffering from chronic illnesses that rapidly engulf the fluids from the body, this can cause babies to become dehydrated more quickly than adults.
Diarrhoea which is the most common cause of dehydration in young children and babies. The reason is that while having diarrhoea, the baby loses water and electrolytes instantly. When diarrhoea is bonded with other different symptoms that drain body fluids, dehydration can settle down in your body very quickly. For example, when incorporated with vomiting, the risk for dehydration is even more severe.
Other probable causes of dehydration in babies and toddlers are:
- Lack of eating: If babies and toddlers are refusing to eat, they may not be feeling good. Not eating can lead to less hydration in the baby.
- Fever: An increase in your child’s body temperature can result in a greater loss of fluids. Also, babies may not take feedings as well when they have a fever which may cause dehydration.
- Vomiting: When babies are fed forcefully when they refuse to eat, it can make them vomit and vomiting can lead to a great loss of water.
- Exposure in extreme weather: when a toddlers’ body is exposed to sun, it can cause a lot of sweating and in turn a loss of water.
- Bottle or breastfeeding problems: If there is a problem in breastfeeding or bottle feeding, the child may not get enough water from the feedings which can cause dehydration.
Signs your baby or toddler is dehydrated
Babies tend to get dehydrated quickly than toddlers and babies need additional care when they are dehydrated as they can get cranky. Symptoms or signs of dehydration in toddlers and infants are almost the same. Some of these are the signs your baby is dehydrated.
- Dry lips
- Getting irritated easily
- Less urination
- Loose stool when the dehydration is caused by diarrhoea
- Vomiting (there will be very little bowel movement)
- Less fluid intake
- Concentrated urine which is dark yellow or orange
- Absence of tears while crying
- Excessive sleepiness
- Less number of wet diapers
- Sunken or soft spot on baby’s head
- Weakness or dizziness
These symptoms range from mild or moderate to severe. If your child is having less urination, nausea, concentrated urine or vomiting, they can be the mild signs of dehydration in babies and toddlers. If these signs are followed by weakness, dizziness, your child being extra lethargic, passes out or breathing is heavier it can be severe.
If your child indicates signs of severe dehydration, it is important to get emergency treatment in a hospital.
How to treat mild dehydration at home?
The ideal thing you can do to prevent dehydration is giving them a robust amount of fluid like water or some rehydration solutions. There are different kinds of oral rehydration solutions (fluids) available that can be used to replace fluids.
Keeping the baby hydrated and taking proper care of them can avoid dehydration. If your child refuses to drink rehydration fluids or water, try giving them milk or apple juice. Do not try to give high sugar level fluids as they can worsen the situation of dehydration.
You must be wondering how to treat dehydration in babies? The simple answer to this question is if your infant is below 6 months old, you should always take the advice from a doctor rather than treating it at home.
For babies over 6 months old, feed your baby like you always do like if you breastfeed, then try to breastfeed more often so that the baby gets enough fluid in their body. If you feed them on bottles, use rehydration solutions instead of formulas.
So what about toddlers? How do we treat mild dehydration in toddlers?
Toddlers who are over 10kgs are to be treated a little differently. Toddlers tend to play and can get dehydrated through lots of activities, and they will possibly be thirsty and should drink as much as they want. Giving them water is the best alternative.
They should rest or sleep in a cool, shaded spot until the lost fluid has been replaced. It is required that you make them drink water every hour for four hours. Give them more than this to drink if they are vomiting or have diarrhoea. Your child may need to drink it all at once or take frequent sips. You can mix oral rehydration solutions in these to improve the dehydration problem quickly.
How do you treat severe dehydration?
Well, the bad news is you cannot treat severe dehydration at home. You should be careful in assessing the signs. Know that the severe dehydration should not be treated at home, this is what doctors are for. Babies or infants who are less than 6 months old, should only be examined by a doctor, especially if they have a current chronic illness. See your doctor, if you observe even mild signs of dehydration in your infant.
Children above 6 months old should be seen by a doctor if they show severe symptoms of dehydration. It is an emergency room situation, so be alert of the signs or symptoms of dehydration in your children.