First Time User? Enroll now.
COVID-19: Vaccine information, visitor restrictions, testing, treatment, and additional resources
Home > Health Library > Dehydration
Dehydration occurs when your body loses too much fluid. This can happen when you stop drinking water or lose large amounts of fluid through diarrhea, vomiting, sweating, or exercise. Not drinking enough fluids can cause muscle cramps. You may feel faint. Usually your body can reabsorb fluid from your blood and other body tissues. But by the time you become severely dehydrated, you no longer have enough fluid in your body to get blood to your organs. You may go into shock, which is a life-threatening condition.
Dehydration can occur in anyone of any age. But it's most dangerous for babies, small children, and older adults.
Babies and small children have a greater chance of becoming dehydrated. That's because:
Older adults have a greater chance of becoming dehydrated because they may:
Watch babies, small children, and older adults closely for the early symptoms of dehydration anytime they have an illness that causes high fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. These are the early symptoms of dehydration:
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
You can get dehydrated when you lose a lot of fluids because of problems like vomiting or fever.
Symptoms of dehydration can range from mild to severe. For example:
Severe dehydration means:
Moderate dehydration means:
Mild dehydration means:
Babies can quickly get dehydrated when they lose fluids because of problems like vomiting or fever.
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may occur quickly after a sudden illness or injury.
Babies and young children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:
A baby that is extremely sick:
A baby that is sick (but not extremely sick):
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may quickly occur after a sudden illness or injury.
Adults and older children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:
Many prescription and nonprescription medicines can cause dehydration. A few examples are:
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
In the early stages, you may be able to correct mild dehydration with home treatment. It's important to take action to prevent dehydration. Here are some things you can do.
Lie down in a cool spot, such as in the shade or an air-conditioned area.
Use an electrolyte replacement drink or sports drink to replace fluids and minerals.
Take it easy for 24 hours. Keep drinking a lot of fluids. You'll probably start feeling better within just a few hours. But it may take as long as a day and a half to completely replace the fluid that you lost.
It's important to take action to prevent dehydration in children, ages 1 to 11 years. Use these tips if your child is dehydrated.
Make sure that your child is drinking often. Frequent, small amounts work best.
Fluids can be replaced with cereal mixed with milk or water. Don't give your child fruit juice or soda pop. They contain too much sugar and not enough of the essential minerals (electrolytes) that are being lost. Diet soda pop lacks calories that your child needs.
If your child still isn't drinking enough fluids, you can try an ORS, such as Pedialyte. The amount of ORS your child needs depends on your child's age and size.
Don't wait until you see signs of dehydration in your newborn or baby younger than 1 year of age. These signs include your baby having fewer or no wet diapers and dry mouth and dry eyes (fewer tears than usual). Here are some things you can do help prevent your baby from getting dehydrated.
Breastfeed your baby more often. Offer each breast to your baby for 1 to 2 minutes every 10 minutes. If you use a bottle to feed your baby, increase the number of feedings to make up for lost fluids. The amount of extra fluid your baby needs depends on your baby's age and size. For example, a newborn may need as little as 1 fl oz (30 mL) at each extra feeding. A 12-month-old baby may need as much as 3 fl oz (90 mL) at each extra feeding.
If your baby still isn't getting enough fluids from formula or the breast, you can try an ORS, such as Pedialyte. The amount of ORS your baby needs depends on your baby's age and size. You can give the ORS in a dropper, a spoon, or a bottle.
If your baby has started eating cereal, you may replace lost fluids with cereal. You also may feed your baby strained bananas and mashed potatoes if your child has had these foods before.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of:
March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.