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Drinking Fluids - Decreased - Allied Physicians Group - Pediatric Medicine
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  • Drinking Fluids – Decreased


    • Child drinks less than normal amounts of fluid


    • Main cause. Mouth ulcers or sore throat.
    • Common cause in babies. Blocked nose in bottle or breastfed infant. Reason: Can’t breathe while sucking.
    • Common cause. Nausea (upset stomach) from a virus, but without vomiting.
    • Trouble breathing with a viral illness that affects breathing such as croup. Reason: Baby gets tired out from sucking and breathing at the same time.


    • Dehydration. This is the health problem where the body has lost too much fluid.

    When to Call Us for Drinking Fluids – Decreased

    Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If:

    • Not moving or very weak
    • You think your child has a life-threatening emergency

    Call Us Now (night or day) If:

    • Your child looks or acts very sick
    • Too weak to suck or drink
    • Signs of dehydration, such as:
      • Has not passed urine in more than 8 hours
      • Crying does not cause tears
      • Very dry mouth
      • Sunken soft spot
      • Sleepy child
    • Will not drink or drinks very little for more than 8 hours
    • Will not drink and new onset of drooling
    • Could have swallowed a coin or other foreign body
    • Trouble breathing
    • You think your child needs to be seen urgently

    Call Us Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If:

    • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
    • Poor drinking and also has fever
    • Poor drinking lasts more than 3 days

    Call Us During Weekday Office Hours If:

    • You have other questions or concerns

    Parent Care at Home If:

    • Drinking adequate amount of fluids AND no signs of dehydration

    Care Advice for Drinking Fluids – Decreased

    What You Should Know:

    • Eating less solids during an illness is normal.
    • Drinking less fluids is not.
    • So far, your child does not have any signs of dehydration.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.

    Offer Lots of Fluids:

    • Give your child lots of their favorite liquid.
    • Use fluids like chocolate milk, fruit drinks, water or even soft drinks. The type doesn’t matter. The type only matters if your child has diarrhea or starts throwing up.

    Solid Foods:

    • Don’t worry about solid food intake.
    • It’s normal not to feel hungry or want to eat when sick.
    • Preventing dehydration is the only thing that is important.

    For A Sore Mouth:

    • If the mouth is sore, give cold drinks.
    • Do not use citrus juices.
    • For babies, offer fluids in a cup, spoon or syringe rather than a bottle. Reason: The nipple may increase pain.
    • To help with the pain, give acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen. Use as needed. See Dose Table.

    Liquid Antacid for Mouth Sores:

    • For mouth pain, use a liquid antacid such as Mylanta or the store brand. Give 4 times per day as needed. After meals often is a good time. Age: For children over 1 year old.
    • For children over age 6, can use 1 teaspoon (5 ml) as a mouth wash. Keep it on the ulcers as long as possible. Then can spit it out or swallow it.
    • For younger children age 1 to 6, put a few drops in the mouth. Can also put it on with a cotton swab.
    • Caution: Do not use regular mouth washes, because they sting.

    Nasal Washes To Open a Blocked Nose:

    • Use saline nose drops or spray to loosen up the dried mucus. If you don’t have saline, you can use warm tap water.
      • STEP 1: Put 3 drops in each nostril. (If age under 1 year old, use 1 drop. Also, do 1 side at a time.)
      • STEP 2: Blow (or suction) each nostril out while closing off the other nostril. Then, do the other side.
      • STEP 3: Repeat nose drops and blowing (or suctioning) until the discharge is clear.
      • How often: Do nasal washes when your child can’t breathe through the nose. Limit: No more than 4 times per day.
    • Saline nose drops or spray can be bought in any drugstore. No prescription is needed.
    • Saline nose drops can also be made at home. Use 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) of table salt. Stir the salt into 1 cup (8 ounces or 240 ml) of warm water.
    • Reason for nose drops: Suction or blowing alone can’t remove dried or sticky mucus. Also, babies can’t nurse or drink from a bottle unless the nose is open.
    • Other option: use a warm shower to loosen mucus. Breathe in the moist air, then blow each nostril.
    • For young children, can also use a wet cotton swab to remove sticky mucus.

    For Shortness of Breath:

    • For trouble breathing, feed more often. Feed every ½ hour.
    • Offer smaller amounts per feeding.
    • Reason: This allows your baby to rest in between feedings.

    Call Your Doctor If:

    • Trouble swallowing gets worse
    • Signs of dehydration occur
    • Poor drinking lasts more than 3 days
    • Your child becomes worse

    Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

    Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
    Copyright 1994-2013 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

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