Swedish Kids Symptom Checker

Swedish Kids Symptom Checker

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Drinking Fluids - Decreased

1. Does this describe your child's symptoms?


  • 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, but without vomiting.
  • Difficulty breathing with bronchiolitis or croup. (Reason: not enough energy to both suck and breathe)


  • Dehydration

2. When to Call Your Doctor

Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If

  • Not moving or very weak

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • Signs of dehydration, such as:
    • Has not urinated in over 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 over 12 hours (8 hours if under 12 months old)
  • Refuses to drink and new onset of drooling
  • Could have swallowed a foreign body
  • Wheezing or stridor with breathing
  • Difficulty breathing not better after you clean out the nose
  • You think your child needs to be seen urgently

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

  • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
  • Unexplained difficulty drinking and also has fever
  • Poor drinking present over 3 days

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns

Parent Care at Home If

  • Drinking adequate amounts of fluid AND no signs of dehydration and you don't think your child needs to be seen


  • 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, since your child doesn't have diarrhea or vomiting.
  • Solid Foods: Don't worry about solid food intake. It's normal for the appetite to fall off during illness. Preventing dehydration is the only important issue.
  • For Sore Mouth:  
    • If the mouth is sore, give cold drinks.
    • Avoid citrus juices.
    • For infants, offer fluids in a cup, spoon or syringe rather than a bottle (Reason: The nipple may increase pain).  
    • Older child can use 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of a liquid antacid as a mouthwash 4 times per day after meals.  
    • Give acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen for pain relief.
  • Nasal Washes To Open a Blocked Nose:
    • Use saline nose drops or spray to loosen up the dried mucus. If not available, can use warm tap water.
    • STEP 1: Instill 3 drops per nostril. (Age under 1 year, use 1 drop and do one side at a time)
    • STEP 2: Blow (or suction) each nostril separately, while closing off the other nostril. Then do other side.
    • STEP 3: Repeat nose drops and blowing (or suctioning) until the discharge is clear.
    • Frequency: Do nasal washes whenever your child can't breathe through the nose.
    • Saline nasal sprays can be purchased without a prescription.
    • Saline nose drops can also be made: Add 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) of table salt to 1 cup (8 ounces or 240 ml) of warm water.
    • Reason for nose drops: suction or nose blowing alone can't remove dried or sticky mucus.
    • Another option: use a warm shower to loosen mucus. Breathe in the moist air, then blow each nostril.
    • For young children, can also use a wet cotton swab to remove sticky mucus.
    • Importance for a young infant: can't nurse or drink from a bottle unless the nose is open.
  • For Shortness of Breath: For mild bronchiolitis or difficult breathing, offer small frequent (every ½ hour) feedings so the infant can rest briefly between them.  
  • Call Your Doctor If:
    • Difficulty swallowing becomes worse
    • Signs of dehydration
    • Poor drinking present over 3 days
    • Your child becomes worse
  • And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.


  • This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
  • Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
  • Last Reviewed: 9/15/2011 12:00:00 AM
  • Last Revised: 8/1/2011 3:03:55 PM
  • Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
  • Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
If this is an emergency call 911 immediately.

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Swedish Kids Symptom Checker is designed especially for these times. The interactive iPhone application can help you make appropriate decisions on what level of care, if any, is needed and how to provide symptom relief for minor illnesses and injuries you can manage on your own.

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If you don't see your child's symptoms, please see these topics: