Dehydration is a health condition in which the body lacks sufficient water that is necessary to carry out the vital activities. This condition is more common among children and elderly. Babies and young children are more prone to suffer from dehydration than older children. It is due to the fact that young children lose fluid more quickly than others. Some of the common reasons for dehydration among children are low fluid intake, increased sweating, frequent urination, vomiting, diarrhea or a combination of these conditions.
Causes and Symptoms
The most common cause of dehydration among children is viral infection that leads to high fever, vomiting and diarrhea. Some other causes of dehydration include bacterial and parasitic infections, which can lead to nausea, vomiting and fluid loss. Many a time, painful mouth sores caused by infection worsen dehydration due to difficulty in consumption of foods and drinks. In rare cases, excess sweating due to high temperature conditions may also lead to dehydration in children.
The early signs of dehydration in children are increased thirst, lethargy, irritability, restlessness, decreased urine output and dry mouth. In babies, the fontanel (soft portion in the front part of head) appears sunken due to lack of fluid in the body. As the condition progresses, the child may manifest severe symptoms such as reduced pulse rate, blue skin coloration, abdominal pain, bloody stool, sunken eyes, crying without tears, no urine output in 4 hours and weight loss. Based on the statistics of weight loss, the severity of the dehydration is categorized into three types, such as mild (3-5 percent loss of body weight), moderate (5-10 percent loss of body weight) and severe (more than 10 percent loss of body weight).
Diagnosis and Treatment
Dehydration is diagnosed based on the symptoms, physical examination and medical history of the child. Pinch test to examine skin turgor is a reliable method to detect dehydration. In order to identify any underlying diseases that can cause dehydration, the physician may conduct laboratory tests such as blood count, blood culture, blood chemistry, electrocardiogram (ECG), urinalysis and stool analysis. At times, chest X-ray is taken to evaluate the presence of rotavirus.
The treatment for dehydration is based on the age of the child, cause of dehydration and severity of the condition. For immediate relief, the child should be given clear liquids, electrolyte solution or other oral rehydration drinks. If sore mouth or sore throat is the cause of dehydration, then treatment may include easing the pain by the administration of over-the-counter painkillers. Dehydration in babies and toddlers is usually treated with administration of intravenous fluids. In case of a child suffering from fever, light clothing and sponge bath is recommended to lower the body temperature. Timely diagnosis of dehydration in children is necessary to avoid severe health complications such as organ failure and at times, death.
One thumb rule to prevent dehydration is to compensate the loss of fluid during vomiting and diarrhea by consuming clear liquids or other energy drinks. The amount of fluid intake should be more than the lost fluid, then only dehydration can be prevented. To be on the safer side, it is always advisable to take proper care of the kid's health and seek medical attention in case of symptoms like frequent vomiting or bowel movement, very high fever and increased urination.