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First Aid: Dehydration

Dehydration can happen if kids aren't drinking enough liquids. They also can get dehydrated if they lose fluids through vomiting, diarrhea, or both.

Signs and Symptoms

Mild to moderate:

  • a dry tongue
  • few or no tears when crying
  • rapid heart rate
  • fussiness in an infant
  • no wet diapers for 6 hours in an infant
  • no urination (peeing) for 8 hours in children


  • very dry mouth (looks "sticky" inside)
  • dry or wrinkly skin (especially on the belly and upper arms and legs)
  • inactivity or decreased alertness and excessive sleepiness
  • sunken eyes
  • sunken soft spot on top of an infant's head
  • no peeing for 8 or more hours in an infant
  • no peeing for 10 or more hours in a child
  • deep, rapid breathing
  • fast or weakened pulse

What to Do

Mild dehydration often can be treated at home. If your child has diarrhea but no vomiting, continue feeding a normal diet. If your child is vomiting, stop milk products and solid foods, and:

  • Give infants an oral electrolyte solution (a solution that restores lost fluids and minerals), about 1 tablespoon every 15–20 minutes.
  • Give children over 1 year old sips of clear fluids such as an oral electrolyte solution, ice chips, clear broth, or ice pops. Give 1 to 2 tablespoons every 15–20 minutes.

Get Emergency Medical Care if Your Child:

  • shows any sign of severe dehydration
  • can't keep clear liquids down
  • isn't peeing

Think Prevention!

  • Washing hands well and often can help prevent many of the illnesses that can lead to dehydration.
  • Encourage taking in frequent, small amounts of liquids during illnesses to prevent dehydration.
  • If vomiting happens, use only clear fluids to rehydrate.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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