Dehydration-Symptoms,Prevention And Treatment


Dehydration-Symptoms,Prevention And Treatment.

Dehydration results when the body loses more liquid than it takes in. This can happen with severe diarrhea, especially when there is vomiting as well. It can also happen in very serious illness, when a person is too sick to take much food or liquid.

Most children who die from diarrhea die because they do not have enough water left in their bodies. This lack of water is called dehydration.

People of any age can become dehydrated but dehydration develops more quickly and is most dangerous in small children.

Man drinking a giant glass of water illustration

Any child with watery diarrhea is in danger of dehydration. It is important that everyone especially mothers know the symptoms and signs of dehydration and how to prevent and treat it.



  • Thirst is often the first early symptom or sign of dehydration.
  • Little or no urine, the urine is dark-yellow in color.
  • There will be sudden weight loss.
  •  Dry mouth.
  • Sagging in of the ‘soft spot’ in infants.
  • Sunken, tearless eyes.
  • Loss of elasticity or stretchiness of the skin.
  • When you lift the skin between two fingers, and the skin fold does not fall right back to normal, the child is dehydrated.

Very severe dehydration may cause rapid weak pulse, fast deep breathing, fever, weak and floppy muscles, coma and death. At the earliest signs, act quickly. Do not wait.



When a person has watery diarrhea, act quickly :

  • Give lots of liquids to drink : Rehydration drink is best. Or give a thin cereal porridge or gruel, teas, soup or even plain water.
  • Keep giving food. As soon as the sick child or adult will accept food, give frequent feedings of foods he or she likes and accepts.
  • To babies, keep giving breast milk often and before other drinks.

A special Rehydration Drink helps to prevent or treat dehydration esspecially in cases of severe watery diarrhea.



  • WITH SUGAR AND SALT : Raw sugar or molasses can be used instead of sugar.  In a 1 liter of clean water, put half of a level teaspoon of salt and 8 level teaspoons of sugar.

CAUTION : Before adding the sugar, taste the drink and be sure that it is less salty.

  • WITH POWDERED CEREAL : Powdered rice is best, or use finely ground maize, wheat flour, sorghum and cooked or mashed potatoes.  In a liter of water, put half of a teaspoon of salt and 8 heaped teaspoons (or 2 handfuls) of powdered cereal.

Boil for 5 to 7 minutes to form a liquid gruel or watery porridge. Cool the drink quickly and start giving it to the child.

To either Drink, you can add half a cup of fruit juice, coconut water or mashed ripe banana if available. This provides potassium which may help the child accept more foods and drinks.

Dehydrated Lemon

CAUTION : Taste the Drink each time before you give it, to be sure it is not spoiled. Cereal Drinks can spoil in few hours in hot weather.

IMPORTANT : Adapt the Drink to your area. If liter containers are not in most homes, adjust quantities to be a beer bottle or other common container. Where people traditionally give cereal gruels to young children, add enough water to make it very liquid and use it.

Give the dehydrated person sips of this Drink every 5 minutes, day and night until he or she begins to urinate normally. A large person needs 3 or more liters a day. A small child usually needs at least 1 liter a day or 1 glass for each watery stool.

Keep giving the Drink often in small sips, even if the person vomits. Not all of the drink will be vomited.

WARNING : If dehydration gets worse or other danger signs appear, go for medical help. It may be necessary to give liquid in a vein (intravenous solution).

NOTE : In some countries packets of oral rehydration salts (ORS) are available for mixing with water. These contain a simple sugar, salt, soda and potassium. However, homemade drinks when correctly prepared are often cheaper, safer and more effective than ORS packets.



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