Treatment of Dehydration

Replacement of lost fluid and electrolyte is the only way to manage dehydration. However, the management approach should take into account the cause of dehydration, severity of dehydration and age of the patient.ID-100228317

For mild dehydration, replacement of lost fluid with electrolyte with ORS (oral rehydration solution) is usually sufficient. In case of moderate dehydration in majority of patients, especially young children and adults, replace of lost fluid with electrolyte with ORS (oral rehydration solution) is adequate and only in case of some selected cases may require intravenous fluids. However for severe dehydration replacement of lost fluid and electrolyte require intravenous fluids and should be done rapidly within few hours to prevent complications of dehydration.

Management of dehydration in children and infants:

  • Oral rehydration solution is the most effective way to manage mild to moderate dehydration. Unless specifically advised by your doctor against use of oral rehydration solution, it should be used liberally in case of any dehydration arising out of vomiting, diarrhea, fever etc. The advantage of oral rehydration solution is easy availability (available at every drug store and over-the-counter without prescription), provide all the electrolytes that are lost in dehydration and there is not risk of giving excess oral rehydration solution to your child, because the child cannot drink more than its capacity. Give your child oral rehydration solution till urine becomes clear and colorless or as much as your child can take and after urine becomes clear, reduce the quantity of oral rehydration solution but do not stop it.
  • If your child breastfeeds, continue breastfeeding at time of dehydration. Breastfeeding should never be stopped when your child is sick, unless instructed specifically by your doctor.
  • If dehydration is severe, you need to get the child treated at hospital with appropriate intravenous fluids. The lost fluid need to be replaced within two to four hours.

Treating patients with severe dehydration:

Patients of severe dehydration need emergency management with appropriate intravenous fluids. Severe dehydration may not be possible to treat properly with oral solution, because the capacity of absorption may not be normal and the rapidity of replacement of lost fluid and electrolytes in severe dehydration may not be achieved with oral solution. Hence, ideally intravenous solution should be used for severe dehydration.

As a rule of thumb, all cases of mild dehydration can be and should be managed with adequate oral rehydration solution and this can easily be done. In moderate dehydration, most cases can be easily managed with oral rehydration solution and should be tried. Some specific cases may require intravenous fluids. In case of severe dehydration intravenous fluids are must for management and need to manage as emergency.

Image courtesy of [Nualpradid] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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