How to Treat Dehydration from Stomach Bugs in Children

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Kids can get dehydrated when they’re sick and they don’t want to drink. The information in this video is intended to help you manage dehydration at home and save yourself a trip to the doctor’s office or emergency room.

What is oral rehydration therapy?

Oral rehydration therapy, a very effective method for treating and preventing dehydration at home. With oral rehydration therapy, you give small amounts of fluid every few minutes over a few hours.

What fluids should I give to treat dehydration at home?

The fluids we recommend have salts and sugars that help the intestines absorb fluid more quickly.

  • For children six months to 1 year, give undiluted breast milk or formula. If your baby keeps vomiting, switch to a rehydrating solution that contains sugars and salts.
  • For children six months to 1 year, it’s important not to use water.
  • For children older than 1 year, use diluted apple juice or sports drink. Dilute the drink with water, using half water and half drink.

How much and how often?

The most important part of oral rehydration therapy is to give small amounts of fluid approximately every 5 minutes over two to four hours. The more dehydrated your child is, the longer you will have to do ORT. Use a syringe, medicine cup, or measuring spoon to give your child fluid as follows:

  • For children 6 months to one year, give 10 milliliters or 2 teaspoons or 1/3 of an ounce of fluid.
  • For children 1-2 years old, give 15 milliliters or 3 teaspoons or ½ of an ounce of fluid.
  • For children older than 2, give 30 milliliters or 2 tablespoons or 1 ounce of fluid.

How long should I do oral rehydration therapy?

Give fluid every 5 minutes for at least 2 hours. After that, just keep giving small amounts every so often – it doesn’t have to be every 5 minutes. Keep going for the next several hours, until your child shows signs of feeling better. When your child seems to be feeling better, you can start to give larger amounts of fluid and offer small amounts of food.

When to call the doctor

If you’ve been trying for a while but your child just isn’t taking much liquid, be on the lookout for significant dehydration. Call the doctor if your child can’t kep fluid down, even with ORT, is acting very tired, isn’t interested in playing, isn’t urinating much, or if their mouth seems very dry and their eyes look sunken.

Transcript

How to Treat Dehydration from Stomach Bugs in Children

Narrator: Let's talk about dehydration in kids. The good news is that most of the time you can manage dehydration at home. This video can save you a trip to the doctor's office or emergency room. We will explain oral rehydration therapy, a very effective method for treating and preventing dehydration at home. And we will explain when it's time to call the doctor. Remember, we're talking about healthy children older than six months. For children younger than six months and children who have health problems that make dehydration more likely, call your doctor for advice.

Kids can get dehydrated when they're sick and they don’t want to drink. Most commonly, dehydration is caused by stomach bugs. Other causes include sore throat, mouth ulcers or sores and fever. A stomach bug is an infection of the intestines and causes vomiting, diarrhea or both. We've all been there. Stomach bugs are very common and spread easily.

The good news is that most healthy children develop only mild dehydration from stomach bugs. It's important to keep your child from becoming significantly dehydrated. If your child has several episodes of vomiting or diarrhea and they're refusing to drink, it's time to take action.

ORT is so effective doctors often use it for treating dehydration in kids. It doesn’t take a doctor. You can do ORT at home. With ORT, you give small amounts of fluid every few minutes over a few hours. This helps the intestines to absorb fluid and helps reduce vomiting. The fluids we recommend have salts and sugars that help the intestines absorb fluid more quickly so your child will feel better sooner.

For children six months to one year, give undiluted breast milk or formula. If your baby keeps vomiting, switch to a rehydrating solution, such as Pedialyte, which contains sugar and salts. For children six months to one year, it's important not to use water. For children older than one year, use diluted apple juice or sports drink. Dilute the drink with water, using half water and half drink.

The most important part of ORT is to give small amounts of fluid approximately every five minutes over two to four hours. Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently while you're helping your child get better. The more dehydrated your child is the longer you will have to do ORT.

Use a syringe, medicine cup or a measuring spoon to give your child fluid as follows. For children six months to one year, give 10 milliliters or two teaspoons or a one third of an ounce of fluid. For children one to two years old, give 15 milliliters or three teaspoons or one half of an ounce of fluid. For children older than two, give 13 milliliters or two tablespoons or one ounce of fluid. For small children, place the syringe inside the cheek and give the fluid slowly. This way they are more likely to swallow.

If you're a breast feeding mom, the best way to do ORT is to breastfeed as often as possible. Stick with it. You can do this.

ORT might be discouraging at first. Your child might be fussy and resistant to drinking. It's important to get through the first few times. As your child drinks they'll start feeling better. And ORT will get easier. One thing that might work is to make a game out of it, just like you might do with food your child doesn’t want to eat. Try it.

Give fluid every five minutes for at least two hours. After that, just keep giving small amounts every so often. It doesn’t have to be every five minutes. Keep going for the next several hours until your child show signs of feeling better. When your child seems to be feeling better, you can start to give larger amounts of fluid and offer small amounts of food. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t eat for a while. They'll eat when they're ready. Drinking is most important. Avoid fizzy drinks and undiluted juices.

If you've been trying for a while but your child just isn't taking much liquid, be on the lookout for significant dehydration. Call the doctor if you're child can't keep fluid down even with ORT, is acting very tired, isn't interested in playing, isn't urinating much, or if their mouth seems very dry and their eyes look sunken.

Always call the doctor if you just feel something isn't right. Trust your gut.

Keep giving fluids and adding more food. Your child may vomit a few times as they adjust. That's okay. Take a step back by giving them smaller amounts of food and drink and go from here. Pretty soon your child will be back to good health with lots of energy. Good luck with that. We hope this information helped you and your child. Thanks for learning with us.

Topics Covered: Stomach Bugs in Children

Related Centers and Programs: Quality and Patient Safety, Primary Care Locations


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