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Oral Rehydration: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Dehydration occurs when your body loses too much water. This can happen if you do not drink enough fluids or lose a lot of fluid due to diarrhea, vomiting, or sweating. Being dehydrated can cause health problems and can even be life-threatening.

To replace lost fluids, you need to drink liquid that contains special chemicals called electrolytes. Electrolytes keep your body working well. Plain water does not have electrolytes. You also need to rest to prevent more fluid loss. Replacing water and electrolytes (oral rehydration) completely takes about 36 hours. But you should feel better within a few hours.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take frequent sips of a drink such as Gatorade, Powerade, or other rehydration drinks that your doctor suggests. These replace both fluid and important chemicals (electrolytes) you need for balance in your blood.
  • Drink 2 quarts (2 litres) of cool liquid over 2 to 4 hours. You should have at least 10 glasses of liquid a day to replace lost fluid. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Make your own drink. Measure everything carefully. The drink may not work well or may even be harmful if the amounts are off.
    • 1 quart (1 litre) water
    • ½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt
    • 6 teaspoons (30 mL) sugar
  • Do not drink liquid with caffeine, such as coffee and colas.
  • Do not drink any alcohol. It can make you dehydrated.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.

When should you call for help?

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

  • You have signs of severe dehydration, such as:
    • You are confused or unable to stay awake.
    • You passed out (lost consciousness).

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

  • You still have signs of dehydration. You have sunken eyes, a dry mouth, and pass only a little urine.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You are not able to keep down fluids.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do 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.