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Keeping baby hydrated when they are sick: Tips on home management and when to seek doctor’s advice

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Mar 18, 2024 04:29 PM IST

Looking for tips to ensure your baby or toddler stays hydrated when they are unwell? Here's how to ensure optimal health and well-being for your little ones.

Dehydration in babies is a worrying occurrence that many parents may encounter. Despite appearing healthy, babies are more susceptible to dehydration.

Keeping baby hydrated when they are sick: Tips on home management and when to seek doctor’s advice (Photo by Sergey Makashin on Pexels)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Atul Palwe, Consultant Paediatrician and Neonatologist at Motherhood Hospital in Pune's Lullanagar, shared, “Parents must be vigilant and recognise the signs, which can include decreased urination, dry mouth, and sunken eyes. This emphasizes the importance of early intervention and regular monitoring of a baby's hydration levels. Parents need to seek medical attention if they suspect their baby is dehydrated, as prompt treatment can prevent long-term health issues.”

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He asserted that by staying informed and proactive in maintaining their baby's hydration needs, parents can ensure optimal health and well-being for their little ones. Dr Atul Palwe revealed, “When a baby's body lacks sufficient fluid, dehydration can occur. Although it's natural for babies to lose fluid daily, it's crucial to replenish what is lost, especially when they are unwell. Babies and young children are at higher risk of dehydration, so it's important to monitor their fluid intake closely if they are feeling under the weather. Recognising the typical causes and signs of dehydration can help you detect it early and ensure that your baby remains well-hydrated.”

Cautioning that dehydration in babies can lead to serious complications such as electrolyte imbalances, heat-related illnesses and even organ damage, Dr Atul Palwe explained that since babies are unable to communicate their discomfort effectively, adults must recognise early signs of dehydration such as dry mouth, decreased urine output, and lethargy. According to him, the signs are:

  1. Sunken eyes - A sunken fontanelle in newborns
  2. Crying without tears
  3. Excessive irritability
  4. Cold or discolored extremities
  5. Wrinkled skin
  6. Dry mouth
  7. Reduced bowel movements or constipation
  8. Rapid breathing
  9. Elevated heart rate

If you are looking for some tips to ensure your baby or toddler stays hydrated when they're unwell, Dr Atul Palwe recommended, “Even if they don't feel like nursing or drinking fluids: Continue to provide your baby with breastmilk. If they are experiencing vomiting, consider giving them smaller, more frequent feeds to help keep them hydrated without causing further stomach upset. Avoid offering sodas, or undiluted juice to babies of any age as these beverages do not contain the appropriate balance of electrolytes and can exacerbate symptoms of their illness.”

Talking about when to consult the doctor regarding dehydration, he advised, “If you observe dehydration symptoms in your sick baby due to insufficient fluid intake, contact their doctor to discuss the symptoms and methods for quickly rehydrating them. Your child's doctor may suggest an oral rehydration solution (ORS) to help them maintain hydration and replenish essential nutrients. Severe dehydration may necessitate hospital treatment to restore your baby's fluids. It is the need of the hour to ensure that you seek timely intervention when it comes to your child.”

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