Vomiting and Diarrhea | Complications

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How do I know if my child or loved one is dehydrated?

It can be hard to tell if a person is dehydrated. Usually, by the time a person has signs of dehydration, they have been dehydrated for a while. If you notice any of the following signs of dehydration, especially in babies, children, and the elderly, talk to your doctor. If dehydration is severe, your loved one may need to be given fluids intravenously (by vein through an IV tube) to replace fluids lost through vomiting or diarrhea.

Signs of dehydration

  • Little or lack of urine, or urine that is darker than usual
  • Urinating less frequently than usual (fewer than 6 wet diapers a day for infants and 8 hours or more without urinating for children)
  • Thirst (babies may show thirst by crying, being irritable and eager to drink when something is offered)
  • Irritability
  • Not eating as well as usual
  • Weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • No tears when crying
  • In babies who are younger than 18 months old, sunken soft spots on the top of their heads
  • Skin that isn't as springy or elastic as usual
  • Sleepiness

When should I call a doctor?

Call your doctor if the vomiting and diarrhea don’t seem to be getting better, or if the person who is vomiting and/or has diarrhea:

  • Is younger than 6 months old.
  • Is older than 6 months old and has a fever higher than 101.4°F.
  • Has signs of dehydration (see box above).
  • Has been vomiting longer than 8 hours or is vomiting with great force.
  • Has blood in his or her stools.
  • Has blood in his or her vomit.
  • Has not urinated in 8 hours.
  • Might have swallowed something that could be poisonous.
  • Has a stiff neck or bad headache
  • Is listless or unusually sleepy.
  • Has had abdominal pain for more than 2 hours.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 04/14
Created: 01/99

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