You're likely to start by seeing your or your child's doctor. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, the doctor may recommend urgent medical care. If your child or an adult who you care for is showing signs of severe dehydration, such as lethargy or reduced responsiveness, seek immediate care at a hospital.
If you have time to prepare for your appointment, here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from the doctor.
What you can do
- Write down any symptoms you're (or the person you're caring for) is experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment. If you or the person you're caring for has been vomiting or has had diarrhea, the doctor will want to know when it began and how frequently it's been occurring.
- Write down key personal information, including any recent trips you've taken or life changes you've made. Also include a description of your typical daily diet and any foods you've recently eaten that you suspect may have caused illness. In addition, your doctor will want to know if you or the person you're caring for has recently been exposed to anyone with diarrhea.
- Make a list of key medical information, including other conditions you or the person you're caring for is being treated for and the names of the medications being taken. Include on your list prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as well as any vitamins and supplements.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
For dehydration, some basic questions to ask the doctor include:
- What's causing these symptoms?
- What kinds of tests are needed?
- What treatment do you recommend?
- How soon after treatment will there be improvement?
- Are there any activity or dietary restrictions?
- Is there anything I can do to prevent a recurrence of dehydration?
- I have these other health conditions. Do I need to change the treatments I've been using?
- What steps can I take to prevent this from happening again?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, such as:
- When did the symptoms begin? What were you doing?
- How frequently have you been experiencing loose bowel movements or vomiting?
- How recently have you urinated?
- Are you able to keep down any food or drink?
- Do you also have other symptoms, such as abdominal cramping, fever, headache or muscle aches? How severe are these symptoms?
- Has there been blood in your stools?
- Have you recently eaten any food that you suspect was spoiled?
- Has anyone gotten sick after eating the same food that you did?
- Have you recently been exposed to someone who you know was experiencing diarrhea?
- What medications are you currently taking?
- Have you recently traveled to another country?
- Do you know what your or your child's weight was before symptoms started?
What you can do in the meantime
If your child is sick, continue offering him or her small amounts of an oral rehydration solution containing electrolytes (Pedialyte, others) while you wait for your appointment. Ask your doctor to recommend the amount and frequency. Don't try to replenish fluids in a child with only water, which doesn't treat the electrolyte imbalance associated with dehydration in children, and may make symptoms worse. If you or another adult is sick, try to replenish fluids with water, an oral rehydration solution or a sports drink (Gatorade, Powerade, others).
Feb. 12, 2014
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- Sterns RH. General principles of disorders of water balance (hyponatremia and hypernatremia) and sodium balance (hypovolemia and edema). http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 17, 2013.
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