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The best way to treat dehydration is to rehydrate the body by drinking plenty of fluids, such as water, semi-skimmed milk, diluted squash or diluted fruit juice.
A sweet drink can help replace lost sugar and a salty snack can help replace lost salt.
Infants and children who are dehydrated shouldn't be given only water because it can dilute the already low level of minerals in their body and make the problem worse. Instead, they should have diluted squash, diluted fruit juice or a special rehydration solution (see below).
If you or your child is finding it difficult to hold down fluids because of vomiting or diarrhoea, take smaller amounts more frequently. You may find it easier to use a spoon or a syringe to give your child small amounts of fluid.
When you're dehydrated, you lose sugar and salts as well as water. Drinking a rehydration solution will enable you to re-establish the right balance of body fluids. The solution should contain a mixture of potassium and sodium salts, as well as glucose or starch.
There are several different rehydration products available over-the-counter from pharmacies or on prescription from your GP, including solutions that are suitable for infants and children.
Ask your GP or pharmacist for advice about the most suitable rehydration solution for you or your child.
Seek immediate medical help if you suspect someone is severely dehydrated (see symptoms of severe dehydration).
They may need to be admitted to hospital for treatment. In particular, babies, infants and elderly people will need urgent treatment if they become dehydrated.
Fluid may be given up the nose using a nasogastric tube or using a saline drip into a vein (intravenously). This will provide essential nutrients faster than using solutions that you drink.
If you have had bowel surgery, some rehydration solutions may not contain enough salt. In this case, you will need a higher-strength solution. Your GP or surgeon will be able to recommend a suitable rehydration solution for you.