How Can I Tell That My Baby Is Dehydrated?
Dehydration occurs when your baby loses so much body fluid that his or her body cannot function normally. This can occur from vomiting, diarrhea, high fever, not drinking enough water, or even sweating too much. Dehydration can be mild and easily treated or severe, which can become life threatening very quickly and hospitalization is needed. Babies and children are especially prone to dehydration. It can escalate very quickly with babies, so it is something to watch out for.
Signs of Dehydration
A baby should have at least six wet diapers a day, and a toddler should have at least one wet diaper every six to eight hours. Less than this could be a sign of dehydration. A baby that is lethargic and listless and refuses liquids, or a child that drinks eagerly, but continuously is thirsty may be dehydrated. Physical signs like sunken eyes, a dry tongue and lips, dry and wrinkled skin, or a sunken soft spot (fontanel) on an infant’s head all could be indications that he or she needs more fluids immediately. Hands and feet that are cool, clammy and splotchy looking, and deep and rapid breathing are both signals that something is wrong.
There are two things that you can do to test if your baby is dehydrated. To do the skin pinch test, from the baby’s belly, pinch a thick patch of skin in a longitudinal direction. Release it, and if it holds its shape and does nor spring right back quickly, the child is likely dehydrated. To do the capillary refill test, press your baby’s nail bed with your nail. The nail should turn white, then back to red in less than three seconds. Longer than three seconds is an indication of poor circulation due to dehydration.
When you see any of the above signs of dehydration, especially in an infant, it is time to call your doctor. Most often your family doctor will want to see your child. If the dehydration is mild, your pediatrician may have you administer an electrolyte liquid such as Pedialyte, Infalyte, or ReVital. The amount is often prescribed by weight. If you have a mildly dehydrated infant less than three months old, you will probably be prescribed to increase the breast feedings, or to give your child more formula. Look for signs of the dehydration not abating, and see your doctor immediately if your child is not responding to at home treatments.
Severe dehydration needs immediate attention, and if you suspect it, go straight to the hospital emergency facility. Call your pediatrician on advice on how to proceed. Once your child is diagnosed at the hospital, fluids will be given intravenously, and rest and acetaminophen is often prescribed if the dehydration is due to illness. Children most often respond rapidly once they receive fluids, and in hours your child will be home and recovering nicely.
Keeping your child hydrated by offering fluids often, and be diligent about looking for warning signs when your child has an illness that involves fever, vomiting and diarrhea. These strategies will go a long way toward helping your baby avoid dehydration.