How to Treat Dehydration: First Aid Treatment

When a baby or child is unwell, he is at risk of developing dehydration, as he has less fluid reserves than adults. Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than is replaced. A baby or child may lose excessive fluid through having a high temperature (fever) or diarrhea and vomiting. Severe dehydration is life-threatening for babies and young children, as it affects the balance of salts and minerals in the bloodstream and can lead to complications such as kidney failure. Always be vigilant and seek medical advice if you are concerned a baby or child is becoming dehydrated. In severe cases, he will need to be admitted to the hospital for blood tests and fluid replacement through a drip.

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration

◾ Lack of energy

◾ Irritability

◾ Dry lips and mouth

◾ Decreased urine output (in babies, fewer wet diapers)

◾ Dark-colored urine

◾ Cool skin

◾ Sunken eyes

◾ Skin tenting (see sidebar, Spotting Dehydration Using Skin)

Spotting Dehydration Using Skin

You can test for dehydration in a child by looking for skin tenting. Children's skin is normally elastic and stretchy. However, dehydration can cause the skin to become less elastic as the underlying tissues become dehydrated. This can be tested for by pinching a fold of skin, typically on the back of the hand, and then releasing the skin. If the skin remains elevated and only slowly flattens this is known as skin tenting. The presence of skin tenting indicates moderate to severe dehydration in a child.

First Aid Treatment for Dehydration

1. Encourage the child or baby to drink small amounts often.

2. Use a commercially available oral rehydration solution (ORS) to replace lost salt and sugar.

3. Seek urgent medical advice if the child or baby does not improve or continues to lose excessive fluid.