What is Infant Dehydration? (with pictures)

Nat Robinson
Nat Robinson
Serious signs of infant dehydration include a lack of tears when the baby cries.
Serious signs of infant dehydration include a lack of tears when the baby cries.

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.

Infant dehydration usually requires intravenous fluid replacement.
Infant dehydration usually requires intravenous fluid replacement.

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.

Babies will continue to get sicker if dehydration isn't diagnosed early.
Babies will continue to get sicker if dehydration isn't diagnosed early.

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.

Fever may cause infant dehydration.
Fever may cause infant dehydration.

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.

Infants may be susceptible to methemoglobinemia if they are dehydrated from illness.
Infants may be susceptible to methemoglobinemia if they are dehydrated from illness.

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.

If a baby has fewer wet diapers than usual, it may indicate that the infant is dehydrated.
If a baby has fewer wet diapers than usual, it may indicate that the infant is dehydrated.

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.

A dehydrated baby may become more fussy than he or she normally is.
A dehydrated baby may become more fussy than he or she normally is.

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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    • Serious signs of infant dehydration include a lack of tears when the baby cries.
      Serious signs of infant dehydration include a lack of tears when the baby cries.
    • Infant dehydration usually requires intravenous fluid replacement.
      Infant dehydration usually requires intravenous fluid replacement.
    • Babies will continue to get sicker if dehydration isn't diagnosed early.
      Babies will continue to get sicker if dehydration isn't diagnosed early.
    • Fever may cause infant dehydration.
      Fever may cause infant dehydration.
    • Infants may be susceptible to methemoglobinemia if they are dehydrated from illness.
      Infants may be susceptible to methemoglobinemia if they are dehydrated from illness.
    • If a baby has fewer wet diapers than usual, it may indicate that the infant is dehydrated.
      If a baby has fewer wet diapers than usual, it may indicate that the infant is dehydrated.
    • A dehydrated baby may become more fussy than he or she normally is.
      A dehydrated baby may become more fussy than he or she normally is.