Pedialyte is an oral rehydration solution (ORS) used to help prevent or reverse dehydration in children.
It contains water, sugar, and minerals, making it more effective than water at replacing fluids lost due to illness or excessive sweating (
Pedialyte is widely available and can be purchased without a prescription. As a result, many parents rely on the beverage to keep their babies and children hydrated throughout bouts of vomiting, diarrhea, or other illnesses.
However, giving Pedialyte to infants and young children may carry some risk.
This article reviews everything you need to know about Pedialyte, including whether it’s safe for babies.
Healthy newborns and infants are generally able to drink sufficient amounts of breastmilk or formula to remain hydrated.
Once weaned, toddlers and preschoolers stay hydrated by drinking a variety of fluids like water, milk, juice, smoothies, and soups.
However, when ill, children can refuse to drink, which increases their risk of dehydration. What’s more, illness accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea can cause your child to lose more fluids than usual, further worsening the problem.
Through sweat, vomiting, or diarrhea, children lose not only water but also electrolytes — minerals like sodium, potassium, and chloride — which are essential for maintaining the body’s fluid balance. When treating dehydration, it’s important to replenish both (
Because plain water is low in electrolytes, it’s usually less effective at treating moderate or severe cases of dehydration than an electrolyte-containing ORS like Pedialyte (
Pedialyte also contains a specific concentration of sugar that has been shown to increase the absorption of fluid and electrolytes in the gut (
Oral rehydration solutions like Pedialyte are often more effective at treating dehydration than water. This is because they contain a specific mixture of fluid, sugar, and electrolytes.
To help prevent hospitalization due to dehydration, healthcare professionals typically suggest offering an ORS like Pedialyte to your child as soon as vomiting or diarrhea begins. It may also be indicated for high fever, excessive sweating, or poor fluid intake during illness (
For young babies that have not yet been weaned, it’s important that Pedialyte is offered alongside breastfeeding or formula feeding and not as a replacement for them.
For children who no longer drink breastmilk or formula, Pedialyte should be offered instead of water or other fluids whenever possible. Plus, to maintain its efficacy, it should not be diluted with other fluids like water, juice, or milk.
Severely dehydrated children — typically those who have lost more than 10% of their body weight due to a low intake of fluids or excessive losses — will likely require hospital treatment (
However, mild or moderate cases of dehydration can often be treated at home. In fact, in these cases, oral rehydration appears as effective as intravenous (IV) fluids at treating dehydration (
Recent research suggests that an ORS like Pedialyte is most beneficial in cases of moderate dehydration. Although it can also be used in less severe cases of dehydration, offering your child diluted juice followed by their preferred fluids may be sufficient (
Symptoms and levels of dehydration can be difficult to recognize in babies and young children. They include (
|Mild dehydration||Moderate dehydration||Severe dehydration|
|Body weight loss||3–5%||6–10%||More than 10%|
|Eyes||Normal||Sunken, fewer tears when crying||Sunken, cries with no tears|
|Fontanelle — soft spot on a baby’s head||Normal||Sunken||Sunken|
|Urine output||Normal||Less than 4 wet diapers in 24 hours||Less than 1–2 wet diapers in 24 hours|
The severity of dehydration can progress rapidly, especially in babies. Therefore, make sure to seek prompt guidance from your child’s pediatrician if your baby is vomiting, has diarrhea, or exhibits any signs of dehydration before offering your child an ORS like Pedialyte.
Pedialyte should only be given to children under the age of 1 under the supervision of a medical provider.
When given to children with diarrhea or vomiting in place of other fluids, Pedialyte may reduce the need for hospitalization. Babies under 1 should be given Pedialyte alongside breastfeeding or formula feeding, but only under medical guidance.
Pedialyte can be purchased in several forms, including ready-to-drink solutions, powdered packages to mix with water, and popsicles.
Typically, it’s best to offer your child small, frequent sips every 15 minutes or so, increasing the amount as tolerated.
You can find recommended dosages directly on the product packaging or manufacturer’s website, but keep in mind that optimal dosages can vary based on your child’s age, weight, and cause and degree of dehydration.
Therefore, it’s always best to consult your child’s pediatrician for individualized advice before offering this ORS.
The manufacturer’s website recommends that children under the age of 1 only be given Pedialyte under medical supervision. That’s because dehydration can progress quickly in infants, and giving the wrong dosage is much riskier in this age group.
In infants and young children, the beverage should be used as a complement to breastfeeding or formula feeding rather than as a replacement for them (
The optimal dose of Pedialyte is influenced by a variety of factors. Hence, it’s always best to consult your child’s pediatrician for individualized advice. Infants under the age of 1 should only be given this drink under medical supervision.
Pedialyte is typically considered safe for children over the age of 1.
That said, a small proportion of children may be allergic to some of its ingredients. Contact your child’s pediatrician if you notice any signs of an allergic reaction, such as a rash, hives, itching, redness, swelling, or trouble breathing.
You should also keep in mind that drinking an improperly mixed ORS may cause your child to ingest too much salt, causing a condition known as hypernatremia (
Hypernatremia is characterized by excessively high blood levels of sodium. If left untreated, it can cause your child to initially become irritable and agitated, and eventually drowsy and unresponsive. In severe cases, it can lead to coma or death (
Therefore, it’s extremely important to follow mixing instructions carefully.
Ready-to-drink Pedialyte should never be diluted with additional fluids. Doing so changes the ratios of sugar and electrolytes, potentially worsening your child’s state of dehydration (
Some parents may be tempted to make their own rehydration solution at home.
However, it’s difficult to reproduce the right concentration of fluid, sugar, and electrolytes in your kitchen, and getting this balance wrong can worsen dehydration and be very harmful to your child. Therefore, this should only be done as a last resort (
Some parents may also be tempted to add sugar to Pedialyte to increase sweetness. This may make diarrhea worse by drawing water into the intestine, increasing the risk of dehydration.
Pedialyte should not be given to babies under the age of 1 without first talking to your pediatrician. Once opened or prepared, the drink should be refrigerated and consumed or discarded within 48 hours to reduce the risk of contamination with harmful bacteria.
Pedialyte is generally considered safe for children over the age of 1 when properly mixed, stored in the refrigerator, and consumed or discarded within 48 hours. It should only be given to children under the age of 1 under medical supervision.
Pedialyte is an oral rehydration solution (ORS) used to minimize or treat dehydration caused by vomiting, diarrhea, excessive sweating, or poor fluid intake due to illness.
Offering it to your child alongside breastfeeding or formula feeding appears to be as effective as IV fluids at treating mild to moderate levels of dehydration and preventing hospitalization.
Parents are encouraged to keep an ORS, such as Pedialyte, on hand and offer it to their children at the first signs of vomiting, diarrhea, or dehydration. However, this is best done under the guidance of a medical professional, especially for babies under the age of 1.