7 Facts to Parents Need to Know about Dehydration

Is your child the super active, outdoorsy type? While that active lifestyle is likely giving your kiddo the exercise they require, there are other health risks at play. The biggest, most overlooked concern? Dehydration.

Here’s a guide to what every parent should know about dehydration – and a few things that may surprise you!

It Can Happen at Any Time

You may associate the risks of dehydration with the summer months. Sure, the warm weather and an increase in outdoor activities are definitely major factors in causing dehydration. But the truth is, dehydration can happen any time of the year.

Kids who are outside sledding, skiing, or playing in the snow can be sweating a lot under their layers and become dehydrated—even on a very cold day.
If the dehydration is caused by an illness like the stomach flu, you’re at risk all year round.

It Can Happen Fast

With children, dehydration is usually a rapid process. For instance, if your child is outdoors playing on a warm day, they can be fine one moment then flushed, irritable, and complaining about a headache the next.

The trick is to keep an eye on them. If you’re outdoors on a hot day, make sure that you reapply sunscreen, and take constant water breaks. You also might want to consider indoor activities during scorching hot afternoons.

It’s Not Just about the Fluids!

Lack of fluids is not the only issue when it comes to dehydration! It’s also a matter of electrolytes. Children who are dehydrated can be low in potassium, calcium, sodium, and magnesium.

If you suspect your child has lost a lot of fluids, consider offering them Pedialyte, Smart Water, coconut water, or something similar. It’ll not only replace fluids, but electrolytes as well.

It Has a Variety of Causes

There are lots of ways that children can get dehydrated. Strenuous or prolonged activity without enough water to drink is very common. But it can also happen when a child has had diarrhea or vomiting, common symptoms of a stomach flu. It can even occur when your kiddo has a fever accompanied by moderate to severe sweating.

This is why pushing fluids when a child is running around all day is a good idea. It’s also wise to make sure they are getting enough to drink when they have the stomach flu. Proper hydration will not only prevent a problem from getting worse, it can actually help speed up healing time since all body systems work better when the body has adequate fluids.

It Has Different Levels of Severity

Medically, dehydration is classified as mild, moderate, or severe. As a parent, it’s good to know what signs and symptoms are associated with each level. This will also help you decide on a course of action to treat it.

  • Mild Dehydration. Early symptoms of mild dehydration are not always obvious. Kids can have behavior that is normal or slightly fatigued, a normal heart rate, warm limbs, a moist mouth, and in the case of babies, a normal fontanelle (soft spot). Eyes also appear normal at this point.
  • Moderate Dehydration. As dehydration advances, kids can become very fatigued or irritable, with a slightly faster heart rate. Their limbs can be cool to the touch, their mouths dry, and the fontanelle slightly sunken. The eyes appear to be slightly sunken as well.
  • Severe Dehydration. Children with severe dehydration can be lethargic or even lose consciousness. Their heart rate is often too fast or too slow. Their limbs can look discolored or bluish. The fontanelle and eyes can be very sunken in appearance.

It Can Be an Emergency Situation

It might surprise parents to know that dehydration can cause a life-or-death situation! Mild or moderate dehydration can usually be taken care of at home by replacing fluids and electrolytes and getting children to drink. Severe dehydration, however, usually means a trip to the emergency room. Fluids and electrolytes are then usually replaced through an IV. Generally, children can recover quickly. Even so, it’s a much easier condition to treat when it’s in its early stages. And prevention remains the best treatment of all.

It Can Take Some Creativity to Treat

Sometimes, your kiddo will simply refuse to drink water. This is especially likely if they’re fighting a stomach bug and are suffering from nausea. If this happens, you will have to get creative about how you hydrate your child. Some strategies include:

  • Popsicles made from Pedialyte. Even kids who are fussy usually will go for these frozen treats.
  • Jell-O. Gelatin helps because it turns to liquid almost immediately in the body.
  • Ice chips. Sucking on ice chips can help prevent dehydration and are sometimes easier for your child to get down if he or she has an upset stomach.
  • Ginger-ale. While soda is not an ideal treatment, you can probably make an exception for ginger ale, if the dehydration is due to the stomach flu. Ginger is great for an upset stomach. You can use the ginger-ale first, then once the stomach has settled down, go for plain water instead.

Children can become dehydrated for any number of reasons. It’s important to know what causes dehydration as well as what symptoms to look for and how to treat and prevent it. Early treatment is critical before it becomes a serious problem.

Do you have any kid-friendly ideas to keep the little ones hydrated? Share them with us in the comments below!

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