Published on May 21, 2024 at 13:32

Babies and children are more at risk of dehydration, given their young age, but also their more fragile health, which can deteriorate rapidly. As a parent, it's essential to be vigilant and recognize potential signs of dehydration in children. You will be able to act more quickly if your child's health decline.


Dehydration occurs when the body undergoes an imbalance between fluid loss and intake, causing a shortage of the hydration and mineral salts essential for the body to function properly.

It is, therefore, essential to maintain a balance between water intake (beverages, food) and water loss (urine, perspiration).

Causes of dehydration in young children

One of the most common causes of dehydration is gastroenteritis, a viral infection that causes diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Gastroenteritis, as well as any similar condition (digestive disorders, food poisoning, etc.) leading to these symptoms, is likely to result in dehydration. 

A variety of other factors can also cause a child to become dehydrated, for example:

  • Breastfeeding difficulties or refusal to feed
  • Heat stroke
  • High fever (excessive sweating)
  • Severe infection
  • Etc.

It's important to watch for signs of dehydration in each of these conditions.

Symptoms of dehydration in young children

To detect a condition of dehydration in a young child, special attention must be paid to specific important symptoms, including:

  • Less abundant and darker urine
  • A pale or reddish complexion
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Drowsiness
  • Increased need for sleep and difficulty waking up
  • Abnormal agitation, irritability or confusion
  • Dry skin, lips and mouth
  • Hollow, dark-rimmed eyes
  • A high temperature, i.e. 38.5º C or higher (rectal)

It's best to consult a healthcare professional in any of the situations described above. 

Preventing dehydration in young children

Since the health of babies and children tends to deteriorate rapidly, some precautions should be taken to prevent dehydration and avoid the dangers associated with it.

Proper hydration

It's essential to get children to drink water regularly. Provide older children with a water bottle they can carry around with them. 

Adding some fruit, colourful ice cubes or a little juice to the water is a good idea. Colours and flavours can encourage children to drink more. 

For breastfed babies, the breast is offered on request. Bottle feeding should be scheduled more often for formula-fed babies. 

Ways to keep kids cool

Giving children a warm bath or shower or moistening their skin with a wet washcloth when necessary are simple actions that allow them to cool off.

Also, homemade popsicles make a delicious and fun refreshment.

Protection against heat

To protect your children from the heat, lightweight clothing is appropriate, as is a wide-brimmed hat to cover the head. 

In addition, it's best to avoid the hottest times of the day, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Opt for before or after these times. Ventilated or air-conditioned areas are preferable when the sun's rays peak.

Monitoring dehydration in young children

Keep an eye out for the signs of dehydration in children:

  • Body temperature
  • Stools and vomit
  • Number of feeding bottles
  • Overall behaviour

If you have any doubts about your child's dehydration, don't hesitate to consult a healthcare professional as soon as possible, who will advise you on the best course of action and, if necessary, treat the cause of the dehydration.

Text written in collaboration with Vie de Parents.

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