Dehydration :: Nationwide Children's Hospital

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Dehydration: Giving Liquids at Home

There are many reasons why children can get “dried out” or dehydrated (dee-HI-drate-ed). A child can lose too much liquid from the body from diarrhea or vomiting. If the child has mouth sores or a stomachache, he may refuse to drink enough. Getting too dried out can be dangerous for infants and young children, but it can be prevented. If the liquids are not replaced, the child may need to have an IV. We don’t believe an IV is needed at this time, but you should follow the advice checked below:

Picture 1
Image of tablespoon
  • Your child is not dehydrated – Continue to give regular foods along with extra amounts of liquids. Do not give fruit juice or liquids that are high in sugar, such as Hi-C®, Hawaiian Punch®, Kool-Aid®, or syrups.
  • Your child is a little dehydrated – Be careful to give at least 1 teaspoonful of Pedialyte, milk or formula per pound of body weight every hour (see chart below). Give more if your child is thirsty and can keep it down.
  • Your child is sick to her stomach or vomiting – Give small amounts of Pedialyte®, milk or formula very often. Start by giving a teaspoonful of liquid for babies, or tablespoonful (3 teaspoons) for toddlers and children every few minutes (Picture 1). Gradually work up to the amount below. Even if your child
    vomits some, most of the liquid is being kept down. If your child still vomits, wait for one hour and try to give small amounts of liquids again.

Goals for Giving Liquids

These are the amounts of liquid you should try to work up to gradually, as long as your child is vomiting, or has diarrhea or lacks interest in drinking fluids:

Child's Weight Amount of Liquid to Work Up to Gradually
10 lbs. At least 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) of liquid every hour
15 lbs. At least 2-1/2 ounces (6 tablespoons) of liquid every hour
20 lbs. At least 3-1/2 ounces (or 1/2 of a large glass) of liquid every hour
40 lbs. At least 6-1/2 ounces of liquid every hour (or one large glass every hour)
60 lbs. At least 10 ounces of liquid every hour (1-1/2 large glasses per hour)

Kinds of Liquids to Give

For babies younger than 12 months – breast milk, formula, Pedialyte®, Naturalyte®, Infalyte®, K-Electrolyte® powdered mix.

For toddlers and children – same as above. You may also give regular milk. Avoid any red-colored food or liquids that might look like blood in diarrhea or vomited material.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your child's doctor if you think your child is getting worse, or:

Picture 2: Signs of dehydration.
Image of dehydration symptoms in baby
  • Your child does not urinate (pass water) for 6 or more hours
  • No tears when he cries
  • Mouth feels dry or sticky
  • Breathing is hard or fast
  • Eyes look "sunken"
  • If your child is an infant and the "soft spot" on the top of his head is flat, sunken, or "pulls in"
  • If there is no improvement in 24 hours
  • If your child vomits blood or what looks like "coffee grounds"
  • If vomiting becomes more severe or happens more often.
  • If your child is lethargic (hard to awaken)
  • If your child acts confused or does not know what he is doing
  • If your child has constant abdominal pain (tummy ache)
  • If your child has a fever for more than 72 hours

If you have any questions, be sure to ask your doctor or nurse.

Dehydration: Giving Liquids at Home (PDF)

HH-I-207 10/05, Reviewed 10/13 Copyright 2005, Nationwide Children's Hospital

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