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When to take your child to the ER for dehydration

Dehydration in children can be mild, moderate or severe.

June 28, 2023

Dehydration in children occurs when more fluids are lost than taken in by the body.

Babies and children are more susceptible to dehydration, which can be caused by not drinking fluids or intense diarrhea, vomiting or fever. When the body doesn’t have enough fluids to function properly, it can cause significant damage to your child.

The physicians and support staff at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children (RMHC) are close-to-home experts who can help treat dehydration, as well as help you recognize the signs of dehydration in children. You know your child best, and if you notice something might be wrong, we’re here to help.

Types of dehydration in children

Each child, as with each case of dehydration, is unique. Dehydration in children can be mild, moderate or severe. In addition to severity, dehydration in children mostly presents itself in three variations:

  • Hypotonic/Hyponatremic – loss of electrolytes, which are the salts in your body
  • Hypertonic/Hypernatremic – loss of water
  • Isotonic/Isonatremic – loss of both water and electrolytes

How to tell if your child is dehydrated

Signs of dehydration in children often depend on each child’s case. If your child is experiencing any of the below symptoms, it might be time to consider taking your child to a pediatric emergency room.

There are several ways to tell if your child is dehydrated. A decrease in weight is found in dehydration, but can be hard to measure day to day. A number of physical findings together with clinical history can help assess the severity of dehydration. These findings include the child's pulse, blood pressure, skin turgor, increased thirst or lethargy, and decreased urine output.


If your baby or toddler starts acting lethargic, it isn’t just a case of being tired. Go to the emergency room if your child won’t speak or respond to your voice or touch. Additionally, your child will appear limp, won’t walk or move, and may be too sick to cry or fuss.

Lack of body fluid

A dehydrated baby or toddler will have a reduction in body fluid, which leads to a dry mouth, decreased urine, sunken eyes, and no tears when crying.

Pale skin

If your child seems very pale, seek immediate medical attention. Additionally, your child’s skin might appear splotchy and the eyes might look sunken in.

Rapid heartbeat

If your child’s heart beats more than 110 beats per minute, it could be a sign of significant dehydration. Additional symptoms of rapid heartbeat include shortness of breath, dizziness, weakness, light-headedness, sleepiness and fainting.

RMHC’s pediatric emergency room is fully equipped to treat all signs of dehydration in children, so if you feel like something is wrong with your child, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention. We strive to beat the national average wait time, so you can get quick access to high-quality emergency medical care when your child needs it most.

For more information on RMHC, call (720) 754-1000.


June 28, 2023
Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at PSL
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