What causes dehydration in children?

Updated: Nov 12, 2018
  • Author: Alex Koyfman, MD; Chief Editor: Muhammad Waseem, MS, MBBS, FAAP, FACEP, FAHA  more...
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Dehydration is a common complication of illness observed in pediatric patients presenting to the emergency department (ED). Early recognition and early intervention are important to reduce risk of progression to hypovolemic shock and end-organ failure.

In most cases, volume depletion in children is caused by fluid losses from vomiting or diarrhea. On physical examination, combinations of findings can be used to determine the degree of dehydration. Laboratory studies are of limited utility in cases of mild dehydration, but they may be considered under certain conditions and are recommended in patients with more severe dehydration.

Mild or moderate volume depletion should be treated with oral rehydration when possible. Intravenous fluid therapy is necessary when oral therapy fails or volume depletion is severe.

For patient education information, see the Children's Health Center, as well as Dehydration in Children.

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