Pediatric Electrolytes

By Dr. Ritu Krishnatreye, BHMS
Pediatric electrolytes

Sometimes referred to as the ‘forgotten nutrient’, electrolytes are absolutely essential to our health, especially in kids.

Unfortunately, children are more vulnerable to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.

Why children are more at risk

  • Children are more prone to stomach viruses and bacterial infections that may cause vomiting, diarrhea or fever. When fluids are lost, electrolytes are lost as well.

  • Children are more vulnerable to changes in body fluid and to electrolyte imbalance than adults. A child may become dehydrated in less than a day from recurrent vomiting or episodes of diarrhea.

  • Studies have found that children don’t adjust as quickly to electrolyte disturbances than adults, which in turn produces more severe symptoms. 

  • A child’s kidneys are less efficient in regulating water balance. Thy have smaller organ systems that dissipate body heat less efficiently, leading to quick water and salt loss.

With the above points in mind, it is important to take action to prevent pediatric electrolyte and fluid imbalance.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration in children

Toddlers and younger children may not be able to tell you when they are experiencing symptoms of dehydration. Therefore, it is our responsibility to look out for the signs that indicate an imbalance of water and electrolytes in the body.

Some of the mild early signs and symptoms are:

  • Flushed dry cheeks
  • Increased thirst
  • Constipation
  • Dark yellow colored urine
  • Lethargy
  • Pain in the legs
  • Inappropriate sleepiness and crankiness

Some of the severe symptoms of electrolyte imbalance include:

  • Painful urination
  • An increased breathing rate
  • Spastic muscles
  • Painful urination
  • An increased breathing rate
  • Spastic muscles

If you notice any of these symptoms, consult the pediatrician immediately. 

Pediatric electrolytes - ready mixes available on the market

Some doctors recommend that parents should keep in their homes some ready-to-use electrolyte fluids especially formulated for children.

These usually contain a mixture of electrolytes and carbohydrates.

Some of the commonly used products include:

  • Naturalyte
  • Rehydralyte
  • Pedialyte
  • Inflalyte

These mixes are easy and convenient to use. All you have to do is mix the powder with the recommended amount of water. They provide an instant source of fluids as well as electrolyte salts. 

Is there a better choice?

There is no doubt that these pediatric electrolyte formulations are helpful in cases of moderate vomiting and diarrhea. However:

  • Pediatric electrolytes mixes are loaded with preservatives, additives and excess sugar. Most of them come in sugary flavors.

  • Most electrolyte sports drinks contain only two electrolytes: sodium and potassium. Other essential as well as trace electrolytes are missing.

  • Oral rehydration sachets are often associated with mild side effects

Foods rich in electrolytes - scroll to 2nd half of article, and natural home-made electrolyte drinks may offer a better solution.

Important electrolytes

A loss of water and salt from the body may create an imbalance of numerous electrolytes. This includes sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, chlorine, bicarbonate and numerous trace ions.

To rehydrate a child, it is best to restore the balance of all these pediatric electrolytes. 

  • Potassium is an important mineral that helps to maintain water and electrolyte balance in the body.

  • Sodium, another vital electrolyte, helps in maintaining normal pH levels in the blood. It also helps in muscle contraction and relaxation and prevents muscle cramps.

  • Magnesium is essential for proper nerve transmission, better muscle contraction and relaxation and breakdown of fats, carbohydrates and proteins for energy. 

Electrolytes and the ocean

For an quick and complete source of electrolytes, the ocean may be the best place to look.

Sea water contains a similar concentration of electrolytes as are found the body. Plus, a sea mineral concentrate is free of any additives or preservatives. 

To prepare a sea mineral electrolyte solution, add half of a teaspoon of Ionic Sea Minerals and 1/8 teaspoon of sea salt to a liter of lemonade or other fruit mix.

Crystal Light Pure Lemonade may be a good choice for flavoring, as it contains no artificial sweeteners, flavors or preservatives.

Foods that Contain Needed Electrolytes

Fruits and vegetables are a good source of mineral electrolytes. They are also nutritious, and are filled with water.


Fruits like watermelons, limes, grapes and bananas are rich in potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium, nutrients that are needed to help your child’s body grow and develop.

A daily bowl of mixed fruit will provide your child with fiber, nutrients and electrolytes.


Items such as spinach, kale, tomatoes and pumpkin are another good source of electrolytes.

It is best to include at least three servings of veggies a day in a child’s diet. It could be in the form of salads, soups or uncooked fruits and vegetables.

Conclusion, pediatric electrolytes

Electrolytes are important, not just in adults but also in children.

When replacing electrolytes in children, it is best to opt for natural sources that are healthy as well as nutritious, ones that serve the purpose of restoring both salts and water content in the body.

Natural sources are the best pediatric electrolytes.

(Return from Pediatric Electrolytes to What is an Electrolyte)

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