Identifying and Managing Dehydration in Your Baby

Keeping your baby hydrated is important at all times, as the effects of severe dehydration can be serious. If your child is very thirsty, they are probably already dehydrated. Their little bodies can help but struggle to hold fluids so dehydration can happen fast so it’s important to be aware of the signs of dehydration:

Mildly dehydrated signs:

  • Dark yellow or brown urine (wee) – urine should be pale yellow
  • Fewer wet nappies or nappies not as wet as usual; or older children will not go to the toilet as much
  • Dry lips, tongue, mouth or throat

Severe dehydration signs:

  • Extremely thirsty
  • Lethargic or less active than usual
  • Pale skin with delayed refill when pressed
  • Sunken eyes, tears may be absent when crying
  • Sunken soft spot (fontanelle)
  • Cold – especially their hands or feet
  • Breathing faster than usual and have a fast heart rate
  • Irritable, drowsy or confused

Reasons why dehydration occurs:

  • They have a fever severe
  • They are vomiting or diarrhoea
  • If they are younger than 6 months of age in hot weather
  • After lots of physical activity or exercise

What to do if your baby is showing these signs:

  • Give your baby more fluid to drink, such as water or oral rehydration solutions eg Diorlyte (can be purchased from your local pharmacy)
  • If your baby refuses water or oral rehydration fluids, try diluted apple juice or their usual milk.

Do not give drinks that are high in sugar (e.g. flat lemonade or sports drinks), because they can make dehydration worse.

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