Doctors agree that fatigue and irregular eating are usually seen as initial symptoms among these infants.
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Seven days after he was born, baby Abu Thala was rushed from his home in Bellary district to Motherhood Hospital in Bengaluru’s Indiranagar after he showed signs of severe dehydration. He was brought in an extremely critical stage, but fortunately made a complete recovery. Abu Thala is one of several newborn babies and young children who are presenting with severe dehydration in view of the rising temperatures.

Many postnatal and children’s intensive care units (ICU) in hospitals in both Karnataka and parts of Telangana (largely in Hyderabad) are seeing an increase in the numbers of infants presenting with dehydration. Doctors have largely attributed the rising temperatures to this sudden influx of reports of dehydration.

According to Dr Prathap Chandra, the neonatologist who oversaw Abu Thala’s case, such instances are seen during the peak summer time. “This is different from childhood dehydration where some children may present with similar symptoms, but it is not as severe. Weight loss up to 10% of the body weight is still considered within normal limits, but when it goes beyond that, it becomes a cause of concern,” he explains.

As summer sets in, several states including Karnataka and Telangana, have been hit by the heat wave. Several cases of heat-related dehydration are being reported in large numbers from parts of central and northern Karnataka. “In Bellary, Raichur, Gulbarga, we are now seeing many cases of dehydration-related fever and several babies presenting with a significant loss of weight,” adds the doctor. 

Spotting signs of dehydration

Symptoms of dehydration may initially present as extremely subtle signs. Doctors agree that lethargy (fatigue) and irregular feeding are usually seen first among these infants. In addition, urine output may be less.

Any young children and newborns showing these signs should be taken to a doctor for evaluation.

The sudden increase in temperatures has caused various states to issue precautionary notices to the public telling them to take preventive steps against heat stroke and other health issues related to high temperatures. In Kerala, officials from the State Disaster Management Authority had listed precautions to be taken by the public in order to prevent heat-related health problems.