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 Emergency & First Aid: Dehydration: First Aid for Dehydration - Emergency Conditions 
American Institute for Preventive Medicine ©


Dehydration is when the body loses too much water and needed minerals (electrolytes).

Signs & Symptoms

For Severe Dehydration

  • Severe thirst (sometimes).
  • Sunken and dry eyes. Tearless eyes. (Infants may not show this sign.)
  • Dry mouth, tongue, and lips.
  • No urine or a low amount of urine that is dark yellow.
  • Sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on an infant's head).
  • Headache. Feeling lightheaded, especially when getting up quickly.
  • Dry skin that doesn't spring back when pinched.
  • Feeling dizzy. Confusion. Severe weakness.
  • Increase in breathing and heart rate.

  • Causes

  • The body does not get enough fluids for it's needs.
  • Too much water or other body fluids and electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, are lost. This can result from: Repeated episodes of diarrhea and/or vomiting; heavy sweating; heat exhaustion; or heat stroke.

  • Treatment

    Fluids and electrolytes must be replaced. If this can’t be done by mouth, they are given through an IV solution.

    Questions to Ask

    Do any of these problems occur?

  • Signs of severe dehydration listed above.
  • A child or person has been left in a hot car or other hot, enclosed place and has any of the signs listed at left.
  • After being in hot conditions, 2 or more signs of heat exhaustion occur.
  • Self-Care / First Aid

  • If vomiting isn't present, adults and children over age 12 should drink about 2 cups of fluid per hour. Fluids of choice are: Sports drinks; flat cola; clear sodas; broths; popsicles; and gelatin.
  • If you have high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, or a history of stroke, you should find out what fluids your doctor prefers you take when you need to replace lost fluids.
  • For children under 2 years old, consult your child's doctor about the amount and type of fluid to give. Ask your child's doctor about using over-the-counter products that give fluid and electrolytes. Examples are Pedialyte and Infalyte.
  • For children over 2 years old, give up to 1-1/2 quarts of fluid per day.
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