What is oral rehydration?

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Oral rehydration for children: Overview

Your child can get dehydrated when their body has lost too much water. This can happen because of vomiting, sweating, diarrhea, or fever. Dehydration can happen quickly in babies and young children. Severe dehydration can be life-threatening. You can give your child an oral rehydration drink to replace water and minerals. Several brands can be found in grocery stores and drugstores. These include Pedialyte, Infalyte, or Rehydralyte.

Rehydration drinks

Diarrhea and vomiting can cause your body to lose large amounts of water, nutrients, and essential minerals called electrolytes. This happens faster and is more serious in babies, young children, older adults, and people who have chronic illnesses.

Rehydration drinks replace fluids and electrolytes. Plain water doesn't provide necessary nutrients or electrolytes and may not be absorbed with diarrhea.

Oral rehydration solutions (ORSs), such as Pedialyte, are used to treat dehydration. ORSs contain the right mix of salt, sugar, potassium, and other minerals to help replace lost fluids.

Soda, fruit juices, and sports drinks have too much sugar and not enough of the important electrolytes that are lost during diarrhea and vomiting. These kinds of drinks should not be used to rehydrate.

Adult rehydration drinks should not be used for babies and young children.

Oral rehydration: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have signs of severe dehydration, such as:
    • You are confused or unable to stay awake.
    • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You still have signs of dehydration. You have sunken eyes, a dry mouth, and pass only a little urine.
  • You are dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You are not able to keep down fluids.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.