The definition of dehydration is: a disruption of the balance of fluids in the body. In other words, there is a deficit of fluids for one reason or another. One is not necessarily hot when dehydrated, so there is no reason to pour water over a dehydrated patient. There are not enough fluids in the body and they need to be replaced, which is why it is imperative to give the patient water to drink immediately.
Adults and children who can speak and have self-awareness may have these symptoms: thirst, paleness, headache, nausea, small amounts of dark urine or even failure to urinate.
Urine is the main sign of dehydration. Urination shows that the body has surplus fluids that it can expel. A dehydrated body attempts to keep as much fluid inside and, therefore, there will be a lower concentration of liquid in the urine (which causes a strong odor due to undiluted substances within). In very serious cases of dehydration there will be no urine at all.
In order to prevent the above situation, make sure to drink a lot when go on a hike or to the beach. Even at home it is important to drink. A tip for encouraging children to drink: drink next to them and encourage them to drink with you.
What should you do if a child complains of one of the symptoms mentioned above? First, check if he has urinated (the first urination after waking up doesn’t count). If so, then the situation is still alright and can be easily treated. If not, let the child drink. However, he should not take large gulps, but small sips. The best way to control the speed of drinking and to make sure it’s slow is to drink with a straw. If, however, you are on a field trip, you can give the child a capful every few seconds.
The reason for drinking slowly is to breach the “deceitful thirst” mechanism. This mechanism, which resembles the body’s condition after fasting, appears because the stomach has contracted and cannot contain the normal amount of liquids. Even a small amount of liquid will signal the body that the person has drunk enough and should stop. In order to infuse larger amounts into the body, one needs to drink slowly. That way the stomach empties and more liquids enter inside.
Do not run immediately to the hospital or medical emergency center to get intravenous therapy (the infusion of liquids directly into a vein). This a traumatic experience for children and should be left as a last resort. It’s true that infusions are more effective, but it will be a harder road.
How do we know if the child has had enough to drink and is not in danger anymore? If the child says that she feels NO more dizziness or headache, that’s progress. Another sign, which is the best one, is if within half an hour the child says she needs to use the bathroom. That’s wonderful, you did it! As soon as there is urine, there is surplus liquids. And if there’s surplus, there’s no dehydration!
Dehydration may appear during the summer or any other season, so beware of the symptoms all year round.
How can we identify dehydration in infants who cannot complain?
Firstly, we are aware of how much fluid an infant ingests and are even more precise with infants. Infants who either breastfeed or drink formula (Similac, Materna, etc.) receive the amount of liquids they need in each meal. If you are in doubt, it won’t hurt to give them a little water. For babies who already eat solids and have a bottle or cup of water, mark with a marker how much they started with. Then, every time they drink, mark the new amount. This will help to keep track. Also, keep track of how often the baby urinates: every two-three hours, while changing the baby’s diaper write down if there was urine or not. A baby’s diaper should always be damp inside and the baby’s skin should be supple and not dry. Another sign is if a baby cries with no tears (and not to get attention). All these should ring warning bells that the baby is probably dehydrated.
Wishing everyone a safe summer!
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