Water is a necessity of life to all living beings. Lack of water causes dehydration in babies. When water or fluid level is lost due to certain conditions like vomiting, diarrhoea, excessive sweating, etc., it leads to dehydration that is, the loss of water and natural salts.
When your baby does not have much fluid in his body as what his body requires, then your baby is dehydrated. Dehydration in babies can be mild or moderate and can be easily treated. Sometimes it might be severe and life-threatening too.
What causes dehydration in babies?
The answer to this is quite apparent. The following causes may increase the chances of dehydration in babies.
When your baby is suffering from loose motion (watery stools), he will lose huge amounts of water along with certain essential natural salts (electrolytes like calcium, sodium, potassium, chloride) resulting in dehydration.
During excessive vomiting, your baby loses water and essential minerals causing dehydration.
When your baby’s body temperature is very high, there are chances for his body to suffer low levels of water, as the intake of fluids and solids is lessened due to lack of appetite.
This may happen during two situations. In the first situation, when he sweats a lot after fever (when the fever subsides) and the other due to hot or humid weather conditions.
Difficulty in the intake of liquids
Sometimes your baby may find it difficult to intake liquids due to sore throat or when he suffers from respiratory problems or ailments like Hand foot and mouth disease, mouth thrush (candidiasis or oral thrush), etc.
Signs to suspect and detect dehydration in babies
- Decrease in number or no wet diapers for more than 6 hours
- Dry lips and mouth with decreased amount of saliva
- Inactiveness and fatigue
- Decrease or absence of tears while crying
- Urine that is unusually dark yellow or amber in colour with a pungent odour
- Unusual thirst
- Less elasticity in the skin
If you come across any of these signs, then it is an indication that your baby is dehydrated or is becoming dehydrated.
Signs of severe dehydration in babies
Further, these signs indicate that your baby may be severely dehydrated and it is highly recommended to seek the help of your pediatrician immediately.
- Sunken eyes
- Cold hands and feet
- Soft spots on your baby’s head which appear sunken
- Excessive fussiness
- Unusual sleep
- Rapid heartbeat and low blood pressure
Ways to treat based on the degree of dehydration in babies
Pediatricians often recommend an Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) namely Ceralyte, Gastrolyte or Pedialyte in small and frequent dosages in order to get the baby’s body rehydrated. ORS contains the right amount of glucose, sodium, chloride and potassium to properly balance the electrolyte levels in babies. Doctors encourage parents to continue the intake of ORS in spite of vomiting by babies only to stabilise (restore) the fluid content in babies body. Oral Rehydration Therapy is believed to only treat dehydration in babies but it is not a treatment for vomiting or diarrhoea.
The amount of rehydration fluid you should give your baby depends on, his weight and the degree of dehydration.
Rehydration chart for better administration of ORS for dehydration in babies
The rehydration chart below serves as an approximate guide to the amount of ORS required in the first 4 to 6 hours of treatment for a mildly dehydrated baby:
- Up to 4.99 kilograms (11 pounds lbs): 200-400 ml
- 4.99 – 9.9 kilograms (11 lbs-22 lbs): 400-600 ml
- 9.9 – 14.9 kilograms (22 lbs-33 lbs):600-800 ml
- 14.9 – 19.9 kilograms (33 lbs-44 lbs) 800-1000 ml
- 19.9 – 29.9 kilograms (44 lbs-66 lbs): 1000-1500 ml
- 29.9 – 39.9 kilograms (66 lbs-88lbs): 1500-2000 ml
- 39.9 and above kilograms (88 +lbs): 2000-4000 ml
- When the degree of dehydration is mild to moderate in babies, ORS is to be given in 50 to 100 ml per kg of body weight. (1.6 to 3.3 ounces for each 2 pounds of body weight) for 3 to 4 hours.
How to hydrate dehydrated babies?
The other important measures to be taken to rehydrate your dehydrated baby:
Breastmilk or Formula milk
Continue to breastfeed your baby if you are nursing him or bottle feeding him. Care must be taken to feed in smaller portions; if your baby is vomiting.
Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT)
ORT is considered the best to treat dehydration in babies. Smaller frequent portions of rehydration solutions can be a better alternate for intaking water.
Follow the Rule of 20
When your baby vomits, his stomach is very sensitive for the next 20 minutes, even a sip of water can make him throw up. So, it is better to wait for 20 minutes and then give him an ounce or a baby teaspoon size of water and wait for another 20 minutes, if he retains that down, go ahead and give him another teaspoon and if he manages to keep it, then gradually start increasing the amount following the rule of 20.
Continue the regular diet
Remember food helps in providing the much required “energy” to your baby. Ensure that you feed him a bland diet which is easily digestible.
Tips to remember while you feed your dehydrated baby
As a first aid you can prepare ORS solution at home by mixing thoroughly:
- 6 teaspoons of sugar
- ½ a level teaspoon of salt
- 1 litre of boiled and cooled water
- Be careful to mix the correct amounts