Dehydration in Toddlers: Know the Signs & Treatments 

Even if you think you drink enough water every day, you may still end up becoming dehydrated. The reason is that you lose body fluids in stool, urine, tears, and sweat. Sometimes, you exercise harder than you normally do and this makes you lose water and other fluids. Drinking more water is sometimes not enough because you need to take certain minerals, such as potassium, sodium, and chloride to maintain a healthy fluid balance. You will experience several problems when your body gets dehydrated. However, it is difficult to notice signs of dehydration in toddlers. Therefore, you have to educate yourself about it to ensure you take timely measures to avoid further complications.


How to Tell If Your Toddler Is Dehydrated?

Your toddler may become dehydrated when they lose body fluid due to diarrhea, vomiting, or fever. It is important to understand that dehydration can happen quickly or slowly. It may also depend on the age of the child or the amount of fluid lost. In most cases, there will be some signs that will help you determine if your toddler is actually dehydrated.

Be sure to seek medical assistance if you notice signs of mild or moderate dehydration. Some common signs of dehydration in toddlers include the following:

  • Their tongue and mouth become dry.
  • They do not urinate as often as usual.
  • Their heart and breathing rate goes up a little.
  • Their legs and arms feel cool to touch.
  • Their eyes may look sunken.

Moreover, you may also notice that your toddler's capillaries are slow to fill. You can check it by pressing gently on the nail bed of their fingernail and see how long the skin color takes to return to normal. If it takes long, it suggests that your toddler is becoming dehydrated. Keep in mind that your toddler may develop serious symptoms if they are severely dehydrated. For instance:

  • They may be unable to drink or have trouble drinking anything.
  • They may have a dry mouth with their tongue looking parched.
  • They may not urinate at all or do it rarely.
  • They may have a rapid heartbeat.
  • They may have breathing difficulties.
  • Their capillaries may take more than 2 seconds to fill.

If you notice any of these symptoms in your toddler, you should not waste any time to seek medical assistance. Your child will need fluids intravenously, so they may need hospitalization.

What to Do


Signs of dehydration in toddlers are usually hard to notice but things can become quite complicated in no time. You should see medical attention in case you notice signs of serious dehydration. If they are not severely dehydrated, you may only call your doctor for advice.

In case of mild dehydration, your doctor may ask you give your toddler a special liquid to replenish electrolytes and water. You can find electrolyte liquids from pharmacies, but ensure that you do not opt for sports drinks, such as Gatorade. Sports drinks can cause complications because they contain sugar as well.

Be sure to ask your doctor how to use electrolyte liquids. They will consider your child's weight and age to decide anything. In most cases, your child needs to finish the solution in 3-4 hours. Follow your doctor's advice when administering electrolyte liquids. In case your child does not like the taste of electrolyte liquids, you may want to give them other liquids that they like. Ice chips and ice pops may help here.

How to Prevent It

As signs of dehydration in toddlers can be quite serious, it is better to take steps to prevent dehydration in the first place. You need to ensure that your toddler is getting enough fluids daily. Never give them carbonated soda drinks because they can cause dental and digestive issues. If they like juice, try diluting it with water. Take special steps to prevent dehydration if your toddler is experiencing the following problems:

  • They have fever. You should make your toddler to drink more liquids when they have a fever. If they have a sore throat that makes it difficult to swallow anything, you may want to give them a pain medication first. Ibuprofen may help in this situation. Do not opt for aspirin though.
  • They are overly active. If your toddler stays active on a hot day, you need to ensure that they get enough liquids throughout the day. What it means is that your child should be drinking more fluids in summer.
  • They have diarrhea. Your toddler is going to lose important nutrients and electrolytes quickly when they have acute gastroenteritis. In this case, you should not give them any fruit juice because this is only going to make their symptoms worse. Just make them drink more water throughout the day.
  • They throw up everything. Vomiting is usually a sign of intestinal infections. You need to talk to your doctor and ensure that you give small amounts of liquids to your toddler to make it easier for them to keep it down. Giving them an electrolyte drink may help manage things better. Do not give too much of it too quickly though.