Dehydration

  • Treatment

    Drinking fluids is usually sufficient for mild dehydration. It is better to have frequent, small amounts of fluid (using a teaspoon or syringe for an infant or child) rather than trying to force large amounts of fluid at one time. Drinking too much fluid at once can bring on more vomiting.

    Electrolyte solutions or freezer pops are especially effective. These are available at pharmacies. Sport drinks contain a lot of sugar and can cause or worsen diarrhea. In infants and children, avoid using water as the primary replacement fluid.

    Intravenous fluids and hospitalization may be necessary for moderate to severe dehydration. The doctor will try to identify and then treat the cause of the dehydration.

    Most cases of stomach viruses (also called viral gastroenteritis) tend to resolve on their own after a few days. See also: diarrhea


    Support Groups


    Expectations (prognosis)

    When dehydration is recognized and treated promptly, the outcome is generally good.


    Complications

    Untreated severe dehydration may result in seizures, permanent brain damage, or death.


    Calling your health care provider

    Call 911 if you or your child have the following symptoms

    • Dizziness
    • Lightheadedness
    • Lethargy
    • Confusion

    Call your doctor right away if you or your child has any of the following symptoms:

    • Not producing tears
    • Sunken eyes
    • Little or no urine output for 8 hours
    • Dry skin that sags back into position slowly when pinched up into a fold
    • Dry mouth or dry eyes
    • Sunken soft-spot on the top of your infant's head
    • Fast-beating heart
    • Blood in the stool or vomit
    • Diarrhea or vomiting (in infants less than 2 months old)
    • Listlessness and inactiveness

    Also call your doctor if you are not sure whether your attempts to give your child proper fluids are working.

    Also call your doctor if:

    • An illness is combined with the inability to keep down any fluids
    • Vomiting has been going on for longer than 24 hours in an adult or longer than 12 hours in a child
    • Diarrhea has lasted longer than 5 days in an adult or child
    • Your infant or child is much less active than usual or is irritable
    • You or your child have excessive urination, especially if there is a family history of diabetes or you are taking diuretics