Treatment

The only effective treatment for dehydration is to replace lost fluids and lost electrolytes. The best approach to dehydration treatment depends on age, the severity of dehydration and its cause.

For infants and children who have become dehydrated from diarrhea, vomiting or fever, use an oral rehydration solution such as Pedialyte or Hydralyte. These solutions contain water and salts in specific proportions to replenish both fluids and electrolytes.

Start with about a teaspoon (5 milliliters) every one to five minutes and increase as tolerated. It may be easier to use a syringe for very young children. Older children can be given diluted sports drinks, such as Gatorade or Powerade. Use 1 part sports drink to 1 part water.

Most adults with mild to moderate dehydration from diarrhea, vomiting or fever can improve their condition by drinking more water or other liquids. Diarrhea may be worsened by full-strength fruit juice and soft drinks.

If you work or exercise outdoors during hot or humid weather, cool water is your best bet. Sports drinks containing electrolytes and a carbohydrate solution also may be helpful.

Children and adults who are severely dehydrated should be treated by emergency personnel arriving in an ambulance or in a hospital emergency room. Salts and fluids delivered through a vein (intravenously) are absorbed quickly and speed recovery.