Paramedic mum shares the little-know sign a child could be dehydrated

I’m a paramedic and this is the one ‘red flag’ parents often overlook that can mean your child is very dehydrated

  • Paramedic reveals overlooked red flag that can be a sign of dehydration 
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An ex-paramedic has warned parents of babies and young children to look out for an overlooked health ‘red flag’ she said many don’t take as seriously as they should. 

Nikki Jurcutz, founder of parenting organisation Tiny Hearts Education, said if a baby is feeding and wetting their nappies less than usual it could be a sign they are dehydrated. 

The mum-of-two said children can become dehydrated much quicker than adults especially when they are sick. 

If a child is unwell, parents should monitor how often they are eating, drinking and urinating to keep track of fluids going in and out. 

She said while it can be normal for a child to not want to eat or drink as much when they are ill, it’s important for parents to know the signs and symptoms of dehydration. 

A former paramedic has revealed the ‘red flags’ parents of young kids often overlook that could be a sign a child is dehydrated (stock image)

Mum-of-two Nikki Jurcutz (pictured), found of Tiny Hearts Education, said kids who are eating, drinking and urinating less could be dehydrated 

Dehydration signs and symptoms in children to look out for 

Mild – moderate dehydration

  • Dry lips, tongue, mouth + throat
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Darker or smellier nappies/ wee
  • Decreased wet nappies/ going to the toilet less frequently

Severe dehydration

  • Lethargic and drowsy
  • Irritable
  • Extremely thirsty
  • No tears when crying
  • Coated tongue
  • Fast breathing
  • Pale in colour
  • Sunken fontanelle and eyes
  • Confusion
  • Fast heart rate
  • Cold to touch (in particular hands and feet)

Source: Tiny Hearts Education 

‘Don’t ignore this sign. If your baby is feeding less, and you notice the number of wet nappies is less than usual, I want you to be paying closer attention,’ a post to the Tiny Hearts Instagram page read. 

‘This is something you should pay extra attention to when your little ones are sick. It’s normal for them to not want to eat as much, and sometimes they might not drink as much as usual too.’

Nikki listed the extra signs of dehydration to look out for on top of reduced thirst, appetite and frequency of urination. 

Dry lips, tongue, mouth and throat, nausea, headaches, darker or smellier wee, no tears when crying, faster breathing and a sunken fontanelle or eyes are things parents should look out for. 

According to a Tiny Hearts’ blog, there are many ways a child can become dehydrated including not eating or drinking enough, feeling sick, exercising or running around a lot, vomiting and diarrhoea, or from taking certain medications. 

The best way to treat mild dehydration in little ones is to provide more fluids for them to drink by offering oral rehydration solutions like Hydralyte or Gastrolyte, cooled boiled water or even watered-down apple juice for 12 hours.

If they are under six months, Nikki recommends offering the breast or a formula feed as often as you can and take them to a doctor. 

For older children over 10kg, it’s recommended giving a cup of water or oral rehydration solution every four hours – extra if they are experiencing vomiting or diarrhoea. 

Kids who are able to have solids should be offered foods high in fluids like watermelon, jelly, yoghurt, soup and custard. 

Wet nappies are a great indicator of a child’s hydration according to Nikki and should be odourless and clear or pale in colour. 

Kids can become dehydrated quicker than adults. If a child is unwell, parents should monitor how often they are eating, drinking and urinating to keep track of fluids going in and out

Strong smelling or dark coloured urine as well as fresh blood are cause for concern as are ‘urates’ which are rust coloured marks in the nappy after they are four days old. 

Parents can also so a pinch test to check their little one’s hydration levels. 

Gently pinch the skin on the back of the wrist and if it is slow to spring back, they may be dehydrated. 

Babies under six months or those with a long term illness should be taken to a doctor if dehydration is suspected. 

There are many signs of severe dehydration such as lethargy and drowsiness, irritability, extreme thirst, paleness, confusion, fast heart rate and cold to touch. 

‘A good point to remember: If your little one is very thirsty, it’s likely that they’re already dehydrated. At the end of the day, you as parents know your little one best,’ the post said. 

‘And if you’re concerned, it’s time to listen to that parental instinct and get your little one seen by a doctor.’

READ MORE: Paramedic issues grave warning about mandarins and oranges: ‘Everyone needs to hear this’

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