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What Is Infant Dehydration?

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  • Written By: Nat Robinson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 05 April 2014
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Infant dehydration occurs when a baby does not have a sufficient amount of fluid in his or her body. This can happen if the baby is losing more fluid than he or she is consuming. Dehydration is seen more often in infants than adults. Generally, this is because babies are much smaller and their small bodies can lose liquids more quickly. They also turn over liquids they consume faster than older children and grownups.

Many different factors can cause infant dehydration. Most commonly, the condition is caused by diarrhea and frequent bouts of vomiting. For this reason, when children are sick with primary illnesses, they may develop dehydration as a secondary illness. Being sick may make an infant unwilling to drink, which can cause dehydration. Other common causes of dehydration may include a fever and excessive sweating.

Infant dehydration symptoms in infants can differ. Parents should be alarmed if their baby has a significantly fewer number of wet diapers than usual. Any urine that is produced may be an unusual color and have a very strong, distinctive smell. Some babies with infant dehydration will have dry lips and a sticky, dry mouth. The baby may be very irritable and more fussy than he or she ordinarily is.

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Dehydration can become very serious in infants quickly. For this reason, it is important to act on early signs of the illness. The more dehydrated a baby becomes, the sicker he or she may get. As dehydration lingers, more serious symptoms may begin. Some serious signs of infant dehydration can include no tear production when the baby cries, thirst and muscle weakness.

Some other serious signs of dehydration may be sunken eyes and a soft spot forming on top of the baby's head. His or her skin may be cool, clammy and can shrivel when touched. If the baby was urinating some in the beginning stages of infant dehydration, he or she may cease to urinate at all as the illness progresses. Untreated dehydration in babies can lead to a loss of consciousness.

It is vital for parents who believe their baby is dehydrated to get medical attention for the child immediately. Severe infant dehydration can cause shock, seizures and organ failure, most commonly in the kidneys. Left untreated, the condition can also be fatal. Paying close attention to an infant's liquid intake and output can help prevent this serious condition from occurring.

Dehydration treatment in infants will generally involve fluid replacement. Sometimes, this is done by giving the infant fluids intravenously in a hospital. If the infant becomes dehydrated due to an illness such as infection, antibiotics may be prescribed to cure the infection. Once fluids are replaced, treating any underlying cause of dehydration is the most ideal dehydration treatment.

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