Why is infant dehydration dangerous?

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Catherine Le Nevez
@catherinelenevez
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Rotavirus gastroenteritis can often present with high fever and with numerous episodes of diarrhea and vomiting that can cause dehydration, more or less important. By dehydration we mean a loss of fluids greater than that assumed. With diarrhea and vomiting (and also for fever) the body loses both water and mineral salts (sodium, potassium, chlorine in particular), which are essential to circulate the blood well and allow the cells of our body to function properly.


The human body, and in particular that of children, is mainly composed of water. Infants have lower reserves of water and mineral salts, so that, in the case of diseases that quickly cause a loss of fluids, they can dehydrate more easily than older children and adults, with the risk of complications, even serious ones (convulsions, damage kidney, shock) if dehydration is not recognized and treated early. A low quantity of liquids, sugars and mineral salts leads to a series of clinical manifestations that the body puts in place to try to compensate for the losses.


In case of mild or moderate dehydration,

• the child is thirsty, restless or sleepy;

• the child has sunken eyes;

• tears are more scarce;

• the tongue is sticky;

• the amount of urine emitted is reduced (diapers are not very wet);

• breathing is accelerated.

In case of severe dehydration, however,

• the child is very sleepy or comatose in appearance;

• the child has very sunken eyes;

• the crying is free of tears;

• the tongue is very dry or dry;

• urine is almost absent (diapers are dry);

• breathing is very frequent or deep and irregular.


In all forms of dehydration there is a loss of body weight which is all the more marked the more severe the dehydration is.


In the case of mild-moderate dehydration there are no consequences for the child's health, if it is treated early and correctly with the administration of special rehydrating drinks containing water, mineral salts and sugars.

Severe dehydration can have severe consequences, particularly in children under the age of three with a high fever, in those who refuse or cannot withhold oral rehydration solution, in premature babies, in malnourished children or with other illnesses. In these cases, seizures, kidney damage due to insufficient water supply to the kidneys, an alteration of the rhythm of the heart, up to the onset of a comatose state and death can occur.


The most effective way to prevent Rotavirus gastroenteritis is vaccination. Since 2017, vaccination against Rotavirus is strongly recommended and is offered free of charge by the National Health Service. If you are an expecting mother, or if you have just had a baby, ask your pediatrician for information on the Rotavirus vaccination right away: it is a great gesture of protection and love for your baby.



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