Often, parents are so concerned with their toddlers becoming dehydrated that they forget that there is another risk to their children, in the form of overhydration. While not extremely common, this can happen if children drink too many fluids in a short period of time. The symptoms of dehydration and overhydration in toddlers can be similar. One way to tell which is the problem is that with dehydration, there will be fewer wet diapers, often three or less in 24 hours.
Although overhydration, or water intoxication, can happen at any age, certain populations are at greater risk. Toddlers and young children are in a vulnerable group because their kidneys are still immature and don't have the capacity to process and flush large amounts of water. Also, younger toddlers in particular may be at risk because they don't eat as much solid food as older children and adults, which means that there is less opportunity for their sodium stores to be replenished. An additional risk factor for becoming overhydrated is when toddlers have been dehydrated previously, for instance, due to a stomach virus with vomiting or diarrhea. A sudden increase in fluids after being so low on them can make overhydration more likely.
Signs of Overhydration
Toddlers that are overhydrated will show symptoms ranging in severity. They may be very drowsy or irritable. Body temperature can be below normal by over a degree, and toddlers may have some facial swelling or look puffy. Nausea is also common. In severe cases, seizures can occur due to overhydration, reports John Hopkins Medical Center.
Appropriate Fluid Intake for Toddlers
Toddlers should drink milk and water only. It's best if children eat fruit rather than drink fruit juice; however, if young children do drink juice, all natural vitamin C-fortified juice is best, and toddlers should not exceed 4 oz. of fruit juice per day. Avoid giving toddlers soda, sugary iced tea or sports drinks. Toddlers should not drink more than 16 to 24 oz. of whole milk a day, according to KidsHealth.
If it's suspected that a toddler may have become overhydrated and is sick, it's important not to panic. Call the child's pediatrician immediately and ask for advice. During weekends, nights, holidays or any other time that it may be difficult to get through to a pediatrician, go to the nearest emergency room immediately. Also head to the hospital right away if a toddler has a seizure or convulsions.