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Children's health

24th Aug 2023

Nine signs that indicate your baby is dehydrated, according to the HSE

Sophie Collins


Babies and children are more at risk of dehydration than adults.

The only way to avoid your child becoming dehydrated is to ensure that they enough fluids including milk or water, every day.

According to the HSE, this is particularly important if your child is under the age of 5 or of they are sick.

While dehydration in young children is common, it can be serious if it’s not dealt with quickly.

Symptoms of dehydration in babies and children are similar to symptoms seen in adults.

The first of which is simply, thirst, but there are other signs to look out for in children and babies, such as:

  • complaints of a headache
  • fewer wet nappies than usual or their wet nappies may not feel as heavy (or be as wet) as usual

It is also important to know that dehydration can happen more easily in babies and children if they:

  • have a high temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or more
  • are not drinking enough fluids
  • have a chest infection – this can make it hard for babies and small children to drink or feed
  • are unwell with vomiting or diarrhoea
  • have sweated too much from playing sport or exercising
  • are too hot and losing fluids by sweating, for example, if they are wrapped in too many blankets
  • are out in very hot weather

Experts at the HSE say: “As a very rough guide, a baby should feed at least 8 to 12 times, or more, every 24 hours during the first few weeks of breastfeeding. Babies will breastfeed less often and sleep for longer as they get older.

“If your baby is formula-fed, they should feed at least 6 to 8 times a day in the first 3 months, and then 4 to 6 times a day for the next 3 months. You can use a spoon to make it easier for your child to swallow the fluids.”

What to do

If your child is over 6 months old, you can usually care for them at home, however, if you’re worried you should get advice from a GP or pharmacist.

Other things you should do include:

  • Carry on breastfeeding or using formula – try to give small amounts more often than usual.
  • Give babies on formula or solid foods small sips of water – use cooled boiled water if they are under 12 months.
  • Give small children their usual diet.
  • Give small children more fluid to drink.
  • Give regular small sips of rehydration solution to replace lost fluids, salts and sugars – ask your pharmacist to recommend one.


  • Do not make formula weaker by watering it down.
  • Do not give young children fruit juice or fizzy drinks even if they are gone flat – it makes things like diarrhoea or vomiting worse.
  • Do not give your child sports drinks – the caffeine in these drinks can be dangerous for children.

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