• Dehydration

    What is Dehydration?

    Dehydration means that there is too little fluid in the body. It occurs when the body uses or loses more fluid than it takes in. The most common cause is vomiting or diarrhea from a virus. It can also occur with excessive exercise and certain diabetic emergencies.

    Emergency Steps


    Check the scene safety, form an initial impression, obtain consent and put on PPE, as appropriate.


    Check for signs and symptoms.

    • Signs of symptoms of shock*
    • No tears*
    • Vomiting or diarrhea for more than a few days*
    • Unable to keep fluids down*
    • Dizziness*
    • Severely decreased or no urination*
    • Bloody or black stool*
    • Sharp or persistent abdominal pain*
    • Sweet breath odor*
    • Dark-colored urine
    • Sunken abdomen, eyes or cheeks (child); soft spot on head (infant)*
    • Tenting of skin when pinched*
    • Thirst or dry mouth/lips
    • Feeling tired or irritable

    *Note: Signs and symptoms with a * require immediate emergency medical treatment.


    Call 9-1-1 and get equipment if the person requires immediate emergency medical treatment.


    Give Care.

    General Care: Dehydration

    1. Replace fluids.
      1. Give water, popsicles or oral rehydration solutions or sports drinks.
      2. Offer small, frequent amounts of fluids (especially for infants and children).
      3. Gradually increase fluid amount as tolerated.
    2. For child or infant, slowly restart normal diet after 12 to 24 hours with no vomiting.
    3. Continue checking them as appropriate to determine if additional care is needed.
    4. Keep them from getting cold or overheated.
    5. Give care for shock, if necessary.
    6. Position the person as appropriate.
    7. Reassure them you will help and that EMS has been called (if appropriate).
    8. Continue to watch for changes in condition, including breathing and responsiveness and give care as appropriate and trained.

    Dehydration FAQs

    Why are children and infants at higher risk for dehydration?

    Children and infants are higher risk because they tend to lose more fluid at a faster rate than adults do. They also can’t get fluid for themselves.

    When should I contact a healthcare provider if a child or infant has dehydration?

    If you think your child or infant has dehydration due to vomiting, diarrhea or both, contact a healthcare provider if:

    • Diarrhea or vomiting lasts for more than a few days.
    • They are not able to keep fluids down.
    • The child has not urinated for more than 6 hours.
    • The infant has not had a wet diaper for 3 or more hours.
    • The diarrhea is bloody or black.
    • The child is unusually sleepy or irritable.
    • The child has sharp or persistent abdominal pain.
    • The child cries without tears or has a dry mouth.
    • The child’s abdomen, eyes or cheeks (or, in a very young infant, the soft spot on the head) appears sunken.
    • The child’s skin remains “tented” if pinched and released.

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