Pediatric Dehydration

Pediatric Dehydration



Dehydration occurs when there is an extreme loss of water from the body.

Expanded overview

Water routinely leaves the human body through sweat, breath and urine. It becomes a medical concern when there is an extreme loss of water known as dehydration. This causes an imbalance of electrolytes, which are nutrients the body needs to properly function. These nutrients include calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphate, potassium and sodium.


Mild dehydration can occur for many reasons like minor sweating during activities or from not drinking enough fluids during the day. More severe forms of dehydration have the following causes:

  • Diarrhea or vomiting – A sudden event or recurring (repeated) episodes of either will result in a large loss of water. If a child has both diarrhea and vomiting, the loss of water will increase (possibly double).
  • Extreme heat or excessive sweating – Sweating is a natural way the body tries to cool down during heat or exercise. Dehydration occurs when more sweat goes out of the child’s skin than they drink, which is a concern during summertime activities.
  • Fever – Just like extreme outside temperatures, a child can be impacted by their own high, internal temperature.
  • Illness – Several conditions can cause a child to not eat or drink. This could be due to difficulty breathing, pain, fatigue (tired), nausea or sore throat. 
  • Increased urination – This can be a symptom high blood sugar with diabetes or another illness. Certain medications like diuretics will also cause frequent bathroom trips.


The following symptoms indicate dehydration.

Symptoms in infants (birth to 1 year*) and toddlers (age 1 to 3 years**)

  • Dark-colored urine
  • Dry mouth
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Irritable
  • No tears when crying
  • No wet diapers for more than three hours
  • Sunken eyes, cheeks or fontanelle (soft spot on skull)

Symptoms in children older than 3-years

  • Confusion
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Dry mouth
  • Extreme thirst
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue (tired)
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Urinating less
  • Vertigo (dizziness)

*Age of infants as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO).
**Age of toddlers as defined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

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