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Dehydration in Children (cont.)

What is the medical treatment for dehydration in children?

  • If the dehydration is mild (3% to 5% total body weight loss), the doctor may ask you to give the child small sips of Pedialyte or other oral rehydration fluids. If your child is able to drink fluids (and no dangerous underlying illness or infection is present), you will be sent home with instructions on oral rehydration, information about things to be concerned with and reasons to return or call the health care professional.
  • If your child is moderately dehydrated (5% to 10% total body weight loss), the doctor may place a tube into a vein (intravenous line or "IV") to provide fluids to rehydrate the child. If your child is able to take fluid by mouth after IV fluid replacement, improves after IV fluid replacement, and has no apparent dangerous underlying illness or infection, you may be sent home. When sent home, you will receive instructions on oral rehydration, instructions for close follow-up with your family doctor (most likely to be seen in the office the next day), and instructions on things to be concerned about and reasons to return or contact your health care professional.
  • If your child is severely dehydrated (more than 10% to 15% weight loss), the child will most likely be admitted to the hospital for continued IV fluid replacement, observation, and often further tests to determine what is causing dehydration. Children with bacterial infections will receive antibiotics, but viral infections will not usually require specific antibiotic therapy. In children, vomiting and diarrhea are almost never treated with drugs to stop vomiting (called antiemetics) or antidiarrheals. Such treatment would usually prolong the diarrhea.

What is the follow-up for dehydration in children?

  • Any child discharged from the Emergency Department or doctor's office with dehydration, vomiting, or diarrhea will be followed closely, either by phone, or preferably in the physician's office, the next day.
  • Continue fluid replacement as instructed by your doctor.
  • Call your doctor or return to the hospital's Emergency Department if your child seems worse, if further symptoms appear, or if you have any questions or concerns.

How do you prevent dehydration in children?

  • It is almost impossible to prevent your child from getting the viral infections that cause most cases of dehydration. The key is to recognize the danger signs early and to begin proper fluid replacement quickly.
  • If your child has vomiting or diarrhea more than four to five times in 24 consecutive hours, start fluid replacement with Pedialyte or a similar fluid to prevent dehydration. Consider keeping replacement fluid in your home for such a situation.
  • Call your doctor any time you have concerns about your child's ability to get enough fluid.

What is the prognosis for dehydration in children?

  • Most dehydration is caused by viral infections that naturally run their course. The most dangerous problem with viruses is dehydration, which can kill infants and children.
  • In most cases, providing adequate fluid, either by mouth or with IV fluid, is all that is necessary to assure your child's complete recovery.

Medically reviewed Margaret Walsh, MD; American Board of Pediatrics

REFERENCE: Pediatric Dehydration.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/21/2017

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