What are life threatening causes of dehydration?

Updated: Dec 07, 2018
  • Author: Lennox H Huang, MD, FAAP; Chief Editor: Timothy E Corden, MD  more...
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Life-threatening causes of dehydration include the following:

  • Gastroenteritis

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)

  • Burns: Fluid losses may be extreme. Very aggressive fluid management is required (see Emergent Management of Thermal Burns).

  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia: This may have associated hypoglycemia, hypotension, hyperkalemia, and hyponatremia.

  • GI obstruction: This is often associated with poor intake and emesis. Bowel ischemia can result in extensive capillary leak and shock.

  • Heat stroke: Hyperpyrexia, dry skin, and mental status changes may occur. [8]

  • Cystic fibrosis: This results in excessive sodium and chloride losses in sweat, placing patients at risk for severe hyponatremic hypochloremic dehydration.

  • Diabetes insipidus: Excessive output of very dilute urine can result in large free water losses and severe hypernatremic dehydration, especially when the child is unable to self-regulate water intake in response to thirst (eg, the very young or the developmentally or physically challenged).

  • Thyrotoxicosis: Weight loss is observed, despite increased appetite. Diarrhea occurs.

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