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Dehydration in Children

Dehydration occurs when the body loses too much water. This can occur if a child loses large amounts of fluid through diarrhea, vomiting, or sweating. Dehydration decreases the amount of blood that circulates to the child's organs. Severe dehydration can cause shock , a life-threatening condition.

Dehydration in small children can develop rapidly and be very dangerous. Watch closely for early signs of dehydration any time your child has a high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, or is too sick to drink.

A young child will not be able to tell you if he or she is feeling dehydrated, so you must look for the symptoms.

A child with mild dehydration:

  • The child is more thirsty than usual.
  • The child's urine is darker than usual.

A child with moderate dehydration:

  • The child is a lot more thirsty than usual.
  • The child's mouth and eyes are drier than usual.
  • The child's urine is much darker than usual.
  • The child passes little or no urine for 8 or more hours.
  • The child feels dizzy when he or she stands or sits up.

Severe dehydration is a medical emergency. Call 911 or other emergency services immediately.

A child with severe dehydration:

  • The child's mouth and eyes are extremely dry.
  • The child passes little or no urine for 12 or more hours.
  • The child does not seem alert or able to think clearly.
  • The child is too weak or dizzy to stand.
  • The child may pass out.
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised May 2, 2011

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