Home Care Fact Sheet: Influenza

Patricia Jackson Allen


Pediatr Nurs. 2006;32(6):573-578. 

In This Article

Preventing Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when the person does not drink enough to replace the fluids the body uses or excretes. Everyone needs a certain amount of fluid every day based on weight, general health, and increased losses due to fever, diarrhea, or vomiting (see Table 2 , Daily Fluid Needs By Weight).


How Can You Help to Prevent Dehydration?

1. It is important that people who have influenza drink enough fluids to meet their daily needs. This may require small amounts (a teaspoon to an ounce) every few minutes. The person must be strongly encouraged to drink small amounts frequently.

2. Keep a record of fluids taken each hour at the bedside (see Chart 2 , "Fluid Intake" at www.pediatricnursing.net/toolbox).

3. It is important that the fluids given contain some sugars for energy and some salts to replace the salts lost in sweat, urine, and stool. A variety of fluids, i.e., juice, water, soup, jello, energy or sport drinks can be offered. Special "rehydration solutions" can be purchased at the store or made at home mixing common household ingredients (see Table 3 , Rehydration Solution). Carbonated drinks (soda) should be limited as the carbonation may decrease the amount of liquid the person can drink. Drinks with caffeine (coffee, tea, cola) or alcohol should be avoided because they increase the amount a person urinates.

4. Controlling the fever will reduce sweating and help a person feel better so they are more cooperative in drinking fluids (see Control of fever, above).

5. People who are dehydrated will urinate (pass urine or pee) less frequently. Normally a person will urinate 5-6 times a day. Urinating only 2-3 times a day, or passing only small amounts of dark urine, is a sign of dehydration. If this happens, call your health care provider and increase the hourly amount of fluids given.

6. Dry mouth and chapped lips are often due to breathing through an open mouth rather than through the nose. To treat, encourage the person to drink small amounts of fluid or suck on ice chips or hard candy. Petroleum jelly products (such as Vaseline or Chap-stick) can be applied on the lips. Dry mouth and chapped lips can occur with dehydration but if present should not be used alone as a sign of dehydration.

7. Weight loss is one way of measuring fluid loss. If there is a scale in the home, weigh the person every day to help determine the amount of fluid lost. A 5% loss in weight is equal to mild dehydration, and a 10% weight loss is equal to moderate dehydration, i.e. if the person weighed 150 pounds before they got sick and now weighs 135, that would be a 10% weight loss and moderate dehydration. Increasing fluid intake is critical when someone has a moderate or greater level of dehydration. If this happens, call your health care provider.

8. Infants and young children can become dehydrated more quickly than older children and adults. A 10% weight loss in a child who normally weighs 20 pounds is only 2 pounds. No tears when crying and few wet diapers are other signs of dehydration in a young child. If tears are not present or the child has only 2 or 3 wet diapers in a day, call your health care provider.


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