Discusses signs of when your body loses too much fluid through diarrhea, vomiting, sweating, or exercise. Covers dehydration in babies, small children, and older adults. Discusses prevention, when to see a doctor, emergencies, and rehydration steps.
Dehydration occurs when your body loses too
much fluid. This can happen when you stop drinking water or lose large amounts
of fluid through diarrhea, vomiting, sweating, or
exercise. Not drinking enough fluids can cause muscle
cramps. You may feel faint. Usually your body can reabsorb fluid from your
blood and other body tissues. But by the time you become
severely dehydrated, you no longer have enough fluid
in your body to get blood to your organs, and you may go into
shock, which is a life-threatening condition.
Dehydration can occur in anyone of any age, but it is most dangerous for
babies, small children, and older adults.
Dehydration in babies and small children
small children have an increased chance of becoming
A greater portion of their bodies is made of
have enough money to adequately feed themselves.
Watch babies, small children, and older adults closely
for the early symptoms of dehydration anytime they have illnesses that cause
high fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. These are the early symptoms of dehydration:
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind
of care you may need. These include:
Your age. Babies and older
adults tend to get sicker quicker.
Your overall health. If you have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart
disease, you may need to pay closer attention to certain symptoms and seek care
Medicines you take. Certain
medicines, herbal remedies, and supplements can cause symptoms or make them
Recent health events, such as surgery
or injury. These kinds of events can cause symptoms afterwards or make them
Your health habits and lifestyle, such as eating and exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug
use, sexual history, and travel.
A baby that is extremely sick:
May be limp and floppy like a rag
May not respond at all to being held, touched, or talked
May be hard to wake up.
A baby that is sick (but not extremely
May be sleepier than usual.
May not eat
or drink as much as usual.
In the early stages, you may be
able to correct
mild to moderate dehydration with home treatment
measures. It is important to take action to prevent dehydration.
Adults and children age 12 and older
If you become
mildly to moderately dehydrated while working outside or exercising:
Stop your activity and rest.
out of direct sunlight and lie down in a cool spot, such as in the shade or an
Prop up your feet.
Take off any
Drink a rehydration drink, water, juice, or sports
drink to replace fluids and minerals. Drink 2 qt (2 L) of cool liquids over
the next 2 to 4 hours. You should drink at least 10 glasses of liquid a day to
replace lost fluids. You can make an inexpensive rehydration drink at home. But
do not give this homemade drink to children younger than 12. Measure all ingredients precisely. Small variations can make the
drink less effective or even harmful. Mix the following:
1 quart water
½ teaspoon table salt
6 teaspoons sugar
Rest and take it easy for 24 hours, and continue to drink a
lot of fluids. Although you will probably start feeling better within just a
few hours, it may take as long as a day and a half to completely replace the
fluid that you lost.
Newborns and babies younger than 1 year of age
you see signs of dehydration in your baby. These signs include your baby being thirstier than usual and having less urine than usual.
If you breast-feed your baby, nurse him or her
more often. Offer each breast to your baby for 1 to 2 minutes every 10 minutes.
If you use a bottle to feed your baby, increase the number of feedings to make up for lost fluids. The amount of extra fluid your baby needs depends on your baby's age and size. For example, a newborn may need as little as 1 fl oz (30 mL) at each extra feeding, while a 12-month-old baby may need as much as 3 fl oz (90 mL) at each extra feeding.
Ask your doctor if you need to use an
oral rehydration solution (ORS) if your baby still isn't getting enough fluids from formula or the breast. The
amount of ORS your baby needs depends on your baby's age and size. You can give the ORS in a dropper, spoon, or
If your baby has started eating cereal, you may replace
lost fluids with cereal. You also may feed your baby strained bananas and
mashed potatoes if your child has had these foods before.
Children ages 1 through 11
Make sure your child is drinking often.
Frequent, small amounts work best.
Allow your child to drink as much fluid as he or she wants.
Encourage your child to
drink extra fluids or suck on flavored ice pops, such as Popsicles. Note: Do not give your child fruit juice or soda pop. Fruit juice and soda pop contain too much sugar and not enough of the essential minerals (electrolytes) that are being lost. Diet soda pop lacks calories that your child needs.
Cereal mixed with milk or water may also be
used to replace lost fluids.
You become dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you might
faint when you rise from lying to sitting or from sitting to
Decreased urination develops.
more severe or frequent.
The following tips may help you prevent
Drink plenty of water before, while, and after you
are active. This is very important when it's hot out and when you do intense
exercise. You can drink water or
Drink plenty of water before, during, and
Take a container of water or
sports drink with you when you exercise, and try to drink at least every 15 to
Use a sports drink if you will be exercising for longer
than 1 hour.
Encourage your child to
drink extra fluids or suck on flavored ice pops, such as Popsicles.
Avoid high-protein diets. If you are on a high-protein
diet, make sure that you drink at least 8 to 12 glasses of water each
alcohol, including beer and wine. They increase
dehydration and make it hard to make good decisions.
take salt tablets. Most people get plenty of salt in their diets. Use a sports
drink if you are worried about replacing minerals lost through
Stop working outdoors or exercising if you feel dizzy,
lightheaded, or very tired.
Wear one layer of lightweight,
light-colored clothing when you are working or exercising outdoors. Change into
dry clothing as soon as you can if your clothes get soaked with sweat.
Never exercise in a rubber suit.
Prompt home treatment for diarrhea, vomiting, or fever will help prevent dehydration.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.