Dehydration in Babies : Causes & Treatment

8 min read

Written by Bindu Raichura

Bindu Raichura

baby crying

We all have heard about dehydration in babies. But this also happens to elders. When a human body is not hydrated enough, it is the condition of dehydration.  We all lose water in the form of urine, sweat, evaporation, tears, and stool as well. The intake of the water and the outgoing water needs to be balanced to retain appropriate quantities of water in your body. Needless to say, water is one of the primary things for our survival and any imbalance in the water in our body sets the stage for bigger issues.

So dehydration is a condition when the loss of fluids exceeds the intake of fluids and our cells start suffering from this loss. This is commonly observed during fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. Dehydration in babies is a serious issue and if not treated properly, it can be fatal as well.

In This Article

What Is Dehydration In Babies?

The loss of fluids from the body of your baby makes them dehydrated. Your baby is having the same digestive system as you, but with weaker functioning and a little more sensitive organs. A baby does several activities throughout the day like sweating, crying, urinating, bowel movements, etc.

These activities don’t result in the imbalance of water, as the loss of water is quite gained through feed or drinking. But some serious conditions like persistent fever, diarrhea, etc. cause excessive loss of fluids from the body of the baby. These conditions give rise to dehydration in babies.

New parents may find it difficult to keep their child hydrated throughout the day, especially in summers. On average, babies between the ages of 6 months to 1 year require two to eight ounces of water, apart from milk or other semi-solid feed.

The imbalance is also caused in case the babies are not fed proper amounts of water. When a baby becomes dehydrated, the body finds it difficult to maintain blood pressure, which causes damage to the internal organs. Just a right check on your baby can save him from this condition.

Why Newborn Babies?

new born dehydration

Like adults, dehydration in newborn babies is also due to the excessive loss of fluids. There are a lot of things that are happening with your baby at any time. The baby may just have their vaccination shot that has resulted in a fever; s/he may be suffering from diarrhea or facing problems with indigestion.

Apart from the medical conditions, multiple reasons can cause dehydration in babies. But the most important question is why newborn babies are at a high risk of getting dehydration and how fatal is it for them?

Risk Of Dehydration In Babies

Your baby is still adjusting to the new world and their body system is taking time to develop and achieve remarkable efficiencies. The not-so-strong immune system of infants put them at risk of getting diseases. Any loopholes in the sanitation or diet of the baby may result in a disturbance in their body.

Just as for grownups, dehydration in babies is fatal. The most worrisome point here is that most of the parents don’t even notice that their baby is dehydrated, which leads to things getting out of control. Babies are known to be at high risk of being dehydrated.

What Are The Dehydration Symptoms In Babies?

It is quite obvious that your baby is not able to speak up about his problems to you and hence a clear and strict vigil on the signs and behavior of your baby is necessary. Thus, it is highly important to look for the symptoms that may indicate the onset of dehydration. Not all cries of your baby are for feed; your baby may be trying to say something to you.

The best-observed dehydration symptoms in babies are:

1. Change In Bowel Movements

The increase in the concentration of urine is the first indicator of dehydration in your baby. The body of your baby is made up of up to 75% of the water that needs to be rejuvenated. The change in color from light yellow to dark yellow or orange indicates that your baby is dehydrated.

The quantity of urination also hints at dehydration. So just in case, your baby is not wetting more than 6 diapers in a day, it is time to take him to the doctor. Further, darker stools are also indicative of the primary stage of dehydration. However, the change in the stool color of your baby may be due to other reasons as well.

2. Visible Dryness

Irrespective of the fact that your baby can communicate with you or not, his skin will communicate dehydration to you. Look out for the dullness in the skin that indicates the loss of water from the cells of the body.

A dry mouth is further indicated by the continuous rotation of the tongue over his lips. You can check for dry lips with dry skin or cracked skin that hints at dehydration.

3. Irritability

sick baby

Your baby may feel irritated by several things surroundings him or the things that are happening inside his body. Once your baby has changed the diaper, his tummy is full, and still, he is irritated, it is the signal to look for something that is happening in his body. It can be one of the possible dehydration symptoms in babies.

4. Soft Spot On The Baby’s Head

Just touch the center of the head of your baby. If you feel a soft spot there, chances are high that your baby is suffering from dehydration and requires immediate attention.

5. Tearless Crying

In case you can recognize that your baby is crying continuously without tears, it is a hint of his body undergoing excessive loss of water.

What Are The Causes Of Dehydration In Babies?

baby having fever

Once you’re clear with the symptoms,  it is equally important to know about the causes of dehydration in babies. Some of the reasons that include responsible for dehydration:

1. Feeding Issues

Many babies start feeding on formula milk too early. As recommended by pediatricians across the globe, you must maintain regular breast milk for your baby for initial 6 months. In some cases, there are mother issues in producing an adequate amount of breast milk. Thus,  in both of the cases, the baby can get dehydrated as he is not able to match the required fluid needs of his body.

2. Heat Issues

If your baby is in the area witnessing scorching summers, you have to maintain his fluid balance as his body is highly sensitive to heat strokes. Further spending excessive time in the sun along with extreme humidity may make your baby lose extra water that causes dehydration.

3. Reduced Diet

loss of appetite

Multiple things may be going on with your baby that may result in loss of his appetite. The reduced diet further can cause dehydration as your baby is not able to fulfill fluids through his diet.

4. Vomiting

Vomiting is not good for your baby as it is the quickest cause of dehydration in babies. He is also throwing out the feed or milk that is making him weaker.

5. Diarrhoea

Frequent bowel movements are the second quickest cause of dehydration that is not at all good for the health of your baby.

6. Fever

In case your baby is suffering from fever, there is excessive release of heat from his body that increases the rate of evaporation of water from his body. Also, fever causes a lesser diet, and these both combine to make your baby highly dehydrated.

Treatment For Dehydration In Babies


Needless to say, dehydration is highly dangerous for your baby. You must know when the right time to implement the normal treatment is and when it’s time to rush your baby to a pediatrician. You must not delay giving immediate medical attention to the baby in case you see any of the following conditions:

  • Your baby is suffering from diarrhea for more than eight hours
  • The infant is not taking fed properly
  • S/he is under 3 months and is suffering from a persistent fever
  • Vomiting after feedings

Let us move our attention to the best treatment for this jeopardy condition. The following steps can be taken into consideration:

1. Take Care of His Feed

You have to ensure that your baby is feeding well. If the infant will not have the power of food inside his body, he will not be able to fight dehydration. Hence it is important to take care of the feed. You can breastfeed or give him formula milk as per the availability.

2. Keep A Check At His Bowel Movements

After a discussion with the pediatrician, you still need to keep a check on the bowel movements of your baby. In case there is no change in the discharge of your baby, you may need to consult the doctor again. Keep a check on the color of his urine and quantities too.

3. Keep your Baby Cool

It is most important to keep your baby in a cool place in case s/he is already suffering from dehydration. Shift your baby to a clean, airy, and fully ventilated room with fan and temperature controls. This can work wonders in the treatment of dehydration in babies.

4. Give Prescription as Guided

You are not supposed to make any changes while monitoring the prescription of the pediatrician. Your baby won’t be able to bear harsh medicines and a wrong step from your side may be fatal for him. Hence, mark the words of the doctor and do as guided without doing any addition or subtraction.

5. Administering Oral Rehydration Fluid

This is one of the fastest methods to regain the electrolyte balance of the baby. Your pediatrician may recommend some oral rehydration fluid for your baby. You can give the same to him in small doses, but make sure that he takes in all of the prescribed amounts. Oral rehydration fluids work wonders on babies and adults, in case the situation of dehydration is worsening.

6. Administering IV

IV For baby

In most severe cases of dehydration, IV is given to the babies so that their bodies can recover quickly. Most pediatricians go for IV when the baby has lost substantial amounts of fluids and they don’t want to put the baby in life-threatening situations.

With the best-in-class treatment for dehydration in babies available to you, your baby will not require much time in recovering and will soon emerge as a winner who is ready for this next notorious mischief. As parents, you must not panic in this situation and do your best to help your baby recover from dehydration.

Dehydration In Babies – Quick Facts

  • For the initial period of 6 months, there is no need for feeding water to your baby as breast milk is sufficient for him.
  • Most parents are too late to observe visible dehydration symptoms in babies.
  • In most cases, it is observed that the rate of dehydration increases manifold with a combination of different causes.
  • Small sips or small diets are always beneficial in the treatment of dehydration in babies.
  • Never give your baby plain water for up to 6 months as it will not relieve him from dehydration, but will further pose health issues.
  • Dehydration is one of the most common risk factors for kidney stones that are on the list of the top five most common diseases in the world.


1. How can I find out that this is dehydration?

You can check the possible symptoms and consult a pediatrician before starting any treatment at home.

2. What is the best method to cure dehydration in babies?

Feeding regularly, keeping your baby away from extreme heat, and maintaining hygiene are the best methods to cure dehydration.

3. What do I do if my baby is suffering from dehydration and looking drowsy?

Immediately contact the pediatrician or take your baby to a nearby hospital.

Bindu Raichura,

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