Chances are, your child will get sick and experience a seriously upset stomach at some point. A combination of vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration in children more quickly since fluids can be lost faster than they are taken in.

Here are some ways to recognize and treat dehydration:

Signs of Dehydration

  • dry, cool skin
  • dry mouth or tongue
  • few or no tears
  • irritability
  • not urinating as often as usual
  • poor activity
  • sunken eyes

Treatment of Dehydration

  • Offer small amounts of clear liquid to your child every five minutes when he's awake.
  • For children over 1 year of age, Pedialyte, Pedialyte popsicles or other store-brand rehydration fluids can be given. If oral rehydration solutions are not available, you may also use water, ice chips, half-strength Gatorade or unsweetened tea. Avoid soda, fruit juice, Kool-Aid, Jello and skim milk.
  • If diarrhea persists during the night, wake your child every three hours and offer clear fluids.
  • For bottle- or breast-fed infants, continue to offer breast milk or formula. If breastfeeding, offer shorter, more frequent feedings. To administer an oral rehydration solution if your child refuses the cup or bottle, spoon- or syringe-feed 1 to 2 teaspoons every five minutes. Increase the amount gradually until your child is able to drink regular amounts. After six hours without vomiting, return to a regular diet. If oral rehydration solutions are unavailable, continue to offer milk or breast milk.
  • For children over 1 year of age, you may add bland foods after six hours without vomiting. Start with saltine crackers, white bread, cereal, rice or mashed potatoes. Return to a normal diet in 24 to 48 hours.

Call your pediatrician if vomiting and diarrhea do not get better or your child is not improving with attempts to rehydrate. Go to the emergency room if you think your child is severely dehydrated.

This article was written by Dawn Humes, RN, a nurse on Children’s Direct at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. For more information about dehydration, please contact our Family Resource Center.

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