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Dehydration in Children: Care Instructions


Dehydration occurs when the body loses too much water. This can occur if a child loses large amounts of fluid through diarrhea, vomiting, fever, or sweating. Severe dehydration can be life-threatening.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Give your child lots of fluids to drink a little at a time. This is very important if your child is vomiting or has diarrhea. Give your child sips of water or drinks such as Pedialyte or Gastrolyte. These drinks contain a mix of salt, sugar, and minerals. You can buy them at drugstores or grocery stores. Give these drinks as long as your child is throwing up or has diarrhea. Do not use them as the only source of liquids or food for more than 12 to 24 hours.
  • Make sure your child is drinking often and has access to healthy fluids when thirsty. Drinking frequent, small amounts works best. Check with your doctor to see how much fluid your child needs.
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has symptoms of worsening dehydration, such as:
    • Dry eyes and a dry mouth.
    • Passing only a little urine.
    • Feeling thirstier than usual.
  • Your child cannot keep down fluids.
  • Your child is becoming less alert or aware.
  • Your child has diarrhea that lasts longer than a few days.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.