May 29, 2013

news-hydration-kids-special-needs-05-2013Did you know that infants and children are more susceptible to dehydration than adults? And kids with special needs can be even more susceptible to dehydration due to medical conditions and medications that affect their metabolism and body temperature regulation.

While dehydration is a common body fluid disturbance, it can lead to more serious medical problems — including shock and tissue damage – if not treated quickly.

With the hot summer months quickly approaching, it’s important to keep your kids well-hydrated throughout the day and to know the warning signs of dehydration.

The following four tips will help get you started, but it’s always best to check with your child’s health care provider before making any changes to his or her fluid intake.

  • Maintain adequate fluid balance: Make sure your child gets plenty of fluids each day, especially when she is sick or physically active on hot days. If you have a special needs child that receives fluid intake through artificial means, such as a gastrostomy tube, you should contact your physician to obtain guidelines on how much extra fluid to give during the summer months to prevent dehydration.
  • Know the early warning signs: Early recognition of dehydration is the best way to manage it. Parents should always be cautious when their child is having diarrhea or a fever, is vomiting, or has increased sweating during the summer months. Report any changes immediately to your home care nurse and your child’s doctor.
  • Know when to contact your physician: Signs of dehydration in children can present in many ways. A sunken appearance of the “soft spot” on your infant’s fontanel (top of head), dry oral mucosal membranes, and absence of tear production when crying are just a few signs to look for in infants. Lethargic behaviors and increased sleepiness are also signs that your child is possibly dehydrated. Decreased urine output is also another sign that it’s time to contact your child’s health care provider.
  • Choose the right fluid to rehydrate: Knowing which fluids to choose to rehydrate your child is very important. Pedialyte is an electrolyte supplement /oral rehydration solution used most often in children, and can also be given to special needs kids via gastrostomy tubes. However, you should avoid using fluids such as sports drinks, soda, water, tea, and juices to rehydrate. These fluids lack the electrolyte replacement that is required to rehydrate.

~ Marvelous Kirven, Clinical Director
Temple, Texas