Dehydration in Infants: Reasons, Signs & Treatment

Dehydration in Babies – Symptoms, Causes & Prevention

If your baby is exposed to extreme temperatures or if she loses fluids due to vomiting or diarrhoea, she would eventually be dehydrated. It is, therefore, important to feed babies fluids at regular intervals. However, health conditions, diseases, or ailments could still lead to dehydration in babies. This article shares practical ways to prevent or deal with dehydration in babies by reading the signs and symptoms. We have also touched upon ways to treat dehydration while it is still mild. Be sure to read the entire article carefully and consult a paediatrician for immediate medical attention to keep your baby safe and healthy this summer.

Video: Dehydration in Babies – Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

What Is Dehydration?

Our bodies lose water in various forms during the day, i.e. through sweat, urine, stools, and tears. The body fluids and their salts are replenished by the fluids we drink and the diet we follow throughout the day. They, thus, help us to hydrate our bodies to the required levels. Children can lose large amounts of fluids and salts through sweating due to prolonged physical activities, both indoors or outdoors. If your baby is unwell with fever, diarrhoea, or vomiting, the reason could be dehydration. Also, certain illnesses may make it difficult for babies to drink water or other fluids, which could lead to dehydration.

What Is Dehydration?

How Common Is Dehydration in Babies?

Dehydration occurs when we do not consume enough fluids to compensate for the loss of fluid. Babies are more prone to dehydration than adults, especially when they are infected by a stomach virus or gastroenteritis. Since their tiny bodies are unable to store a lot of fluids, they can quickly suffer from dehydration. This can cause a lot of anxiety and worry for parents, but if dehydration is addressed while it is mild, it can be easily corrected or treated, and a serious condition can be avoided.

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration in Newborn Babies

A sure-fire sign of dehydration in newborn babies is a decrease in the number of wet diapers and baby nappies. Dehydration impacts the entire body; hence keep a close watch on your baby’s activity levels as she may want to sleep more than she usually does. The common signs and symptoms of dehydration are as follows:

  • Dark and smelly urine
  • Lethargy
  • Six hours or more without passing urine
  • Dry lips and a parched mouth
  • Increased thirst

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration in Newborn Babies

  • Few or no tears
  • Headaches and dizziness

The following are signs of severe dehydration:

  • Sunken eyes
  • Excessive Irritability and sleepiness
  • Sunken fontanels (soft spots on a baby’s head)
  • Cold and spotted hands and feet

Causes for Dehydration in Babies

There are many reasons why your baby could be dehydrated, and they are as follows:

1. Diarrhoea and Vomiting

A stomach virus, like gastroenteritis, could cause your baby to lose fluids through diarrhoea and vomiting. Diarrhoea doesn’t allow your baby to retain any fluid in her bowels, and the liquids that dehydrate the baby quickly cannot be kept down.

2. Fever

One of the most common causes of dehydration is fever. Fever will make your baby sweat a lot, which leads to evaporation as the body cools down. Faster than normal breathing could cause even more fluid loss through exhaling.


3. Reduced Intake of Milk and Other Fluids

If your baby has a sore throat or if she is teething, she may refuse to breastfeed. Even a stuffy nose could keep her from taking in liquids, and this could lead to dehydration.

4. Excessive Body Heat

If your baby is wearing too many layers of clothes or is placed in a stuffy room, she could sweat a lot and lose body fluids, thus causing dehydration.

How Much Fluid Does a Baby Need?

As a newborn, your baby will get all the fluid she needs through breast milk or formula feed. At this point in time (until your munchkin is six months old), her activity levels are quite limited. As soon as she crosses this threshold, you will introduce food in solid or semi-solid form, and a little water can be fed from a cup. Diluted juice (1 part of juice to 10 parts of water) can help add to her fluid intake, too. Sugary drinks, hot drinks and drinks that contain artificial sweeteners should be kept away from children till they are at least a year old.

Are There Any Tests to Diagnose Dehydration in Infants?

Tests to diagnose dehydration can be divided into non-laboratory evaluations and laboratory tests:

  • Non-laboratory evaluations include urine output, breathing and heart rate, checking consciousness, skin dryness, and checking if eyes appear sunken.
  • Laboratory tests are generally conducted if the dehydration is severe and include CBC-Complete Blood Count, Urine Analysis, Stool culture for diarrhoea and Basic Metabolic Panel (BMP).

Are There Any Tests to Diagnose Dehydration in Infants?

How Can You Treat Your Dehydrated Baby?

The primary aim of treading dehydration should be a quick replacement of depleted fluid levels in the body and restoring them to normal levels. The following steps should be taken:

  • Move your baby to a cool place and give her as much plain water as she might want to consume.
  • Rehydration is much needed if your baby is recovering from mild or moderate dehydration because of diarrhoea from gastroenteritis. You may speak to your paediatrician for appropriate fluids and seek guidance as to the care you need to take to help your baby recover.
  • ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution) is the ideal baby drink for dehydration that should be given over a period of 3 to 4 hours. This is a combination of salts and sugars that can help in rehydrating the baby quickly.

How Can You Treat Your Dehydrated Baby?

How to Prevent Your Baby from Dehydration

Since prevention is the best cure, you can take care that your baby does not fall ill and is not exposed to excessively hot conditions that could lead to dehydration. Read on for more information.

1. How to Prevent Dehydration Due to Illness

Babies can lose large amounts of fluids in a short time span when they are ill as it could lead to vomiting and diarrhoea. To keep these viruses away from your baby, it is best to use a good hand wash while handling the baby and also when there are friends and relatives visiting. Do not miss any of your doctor’s appointments and follow the immunization schedule for vaccines perfectly.

kid washing hands

2. How to Prevent Dehydration When It Is Hot Outside

During summer, make sure your baby is dressed in light, breathable clothing. Keep her away from the sun, and do not ever wrap her up in blankets or sweaters while she is asleep.

Dehydration is a common condition that affects newborn babies, and if it is addressed properly by keeping a close watch on the signs and symptoms, you can prevent it and treat it, too. Start by maintaining a regular feeding schedule to ensure your baby is hydrated. If the symptoms seem to worsen, seek medical attention immediately.

Also Read: Constipation in Babies

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