Drinking Fluids, Decreased

Symptom Definition

  • Child drinks less than normal amounts of fluid
  • Main Cause: Sore mouth or throat. See Mouth Ulcers or Sore Throat after using this topic to check for dehydration
  • Common cause in infants: blocked nose in bottle or breastfed infant (Reason: can’t breathe while sucking). See Colds after using this topic
  • Common cause: nausea from viral stomach infection without vomiting
  • Complication: dehydration

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • Signs of dehydration, such as:
    • Has not urinated in > 8 hours
    • Crying produces no tears
    • Very dry mouth (rather than moist)
    • Sunken soft spot
    • Excessively sleepy child
  • Too weak to suck or drink
  • Refuses to drink anything for > 12 hours
  • Could have swallowed a foreign body
  • Difficulty breathing is not better after you clean out the nose.
  • Newborn (< 1 month old) who looks or acts sick at all

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 and 4) If

  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Unexplained difficulty swallowing or drinking and also has fever

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns

Parent Care at Home If

  • Adequate fluid intake AND no signs of dehydration and you don’t think your child needs to be seen

Home Care Advice for Decreased Fluid Intake

  1. Increase Fluid Intake: Give your child unlimited amounts of her favorite liquid (e.g. chocolate milk, fruit drinks, Kool-Aid, soft drinks, water). The type doesn’t matter, as it does with diarrhea or vomiting.
  2. Solid Foods: Don’t worry about solid food intake. It’s normal for appetite to fall off during illness. Preventing dehydration is the only important issue.
  3. For Sore Mouth: If the mouth is sore, give cold drinks. Avoid citrus juices. For infants, offer fluids in a cup rather than a bottle (Reason: The nipple may increase pain.) Older child can use 1 teaspoon of a liquid antacid as a mouth wash 4 times per day after meals. Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief.
  4. For a Blocked Nose: Suction it out using warm water or saline nosedrops in infants and toddlers. Make saline nosedrops by adding 1/2 teaspoon of table salt to 1 cup (8 oz) of warm water.
  5. Call Your Doctor If
    • Difficulty swallowing becomes worse
    • Signs of dehydration
    • Poor drinking present > 3 days
    • Your child becomes worse or develops any of the “Call Your Doctor Now” symptoms