How to Treat Dehydration from Stomach Bugs in Children

Pediatric Milestones

School Age Child

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.

Topics Covered: Stomach Bugs in Children

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

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