911 warning

Drinking Fluids - Decreased

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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

If not, see these topics


When to Call Your Doctor

call 911

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

  • Not moving or very weak

call now

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 within 24 hours

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 within 24 hours

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns

home care

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



  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, since your child doesn't have diarrhea or vomiting.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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