How to Replace Lost Fluids & Electrolytes in a Toddler

Toddlers often fall prey to stomach viruses and bacterial infections that cause vomiting and/or diarrhea. Because a toddler also has a smaller total fluid volume than an adult, he has an increased chance of becoming dehydrated after a short illness associated with fluid loss. Rehydrate a toddler carefully if he becomes dehydrated.

Rehydrating too fast or upsetting a toddler's sodium and potassium balance can cause serious health issues. Talk to your pediatrician if your child seems dehydrated during an illness.

Choosing Fluids

While parents have used ginger ale as the time-honored traditional drink for stomach upset for decades, ginger ale contains very little ginger -- an herb thought to settle stomachs -- today. Rather than giving sugar-laden sodas, start with an oral rehydration solution made specifically to prevent dehydration. Buy these solutions in the pharmacy or supermarket without a prescription. If your toddler still breast-feeds, breast milk also serves as an effective rehydration fluid.

Don't use sports drinks, which are designed to replace fluids lost from sweating and exertion. Sports drinks also contain excessive amounts of sugar, which can worsen fluid loss. Avoid fruit juices, which contain large amounts of sugar as well as the traditional chicken soup, which can contain large amounts of sodium.

Starting Slowly

Drinking Glasses On Wooden Table

Home Remedies for Toddler Vomiting

Learn More

If your toddler has an illness that causes vomiting, don't give him anything at all to drink until he stops vomiting every five to 30 minutes. If he goes 30 minutes or more without vomiting, start fluids very slowly. Try 1 tablespoon of oral rehydration solution every 10 minutes. Putting something back in his stomach when he's vomiting every few minutes will just trigger the vomiting reflex again.

If he has diarrhea but no vomiting, continue regular fluids; you only need to start oral rehydration solutions if he becomes dehydrated. "Resting" the intestines when your child has diarrhea worsens the risk of developing dehydration, the Children's Physician Network cautions. If you toddler won't drink, try freezing oral rehydration solution to make a Popsicle or slushy, which he might tolerate more readily.

Advancing Diet

Increase the amount of fluid you give once your toddler hasn't vomited for four hours or more. You can also start solid foods at this time. Continue to avoid sugary drinks or juices unless you dilute them. The BRAT diet, which stands for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast, is no longer considered the gold standard of diets for stomach problems. Let your child eat his regular diet, concentrating on complex carbohydrates, lean meat, yogurt and whole fruits and vegetables.

Warning Signs

Drinking Glasses On Wooden Table

How to Stop a Toddler's Diarrhea

Learn More

If you give too much plain water or overdo electrolytes by giving sports drinks designed for a different type of fluid replacement, you can worsen electrolyte imbalances. If your toddler has both diarrhea and vomiting as well as a fever, he will dehydrate more quickly than if he has just one of these symptoms.

Call your doctor and watch for signs of worsening dehydration such as sunken eyes, loose skin, dry, cracked lips, decreased urination, lack of tears when crying, lethargy or confusion. Seek immediate medical care if these symptoms occur.