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Reston Hospital Center
StoneSpring Emergency Center

Hypovolemia in Infants


Hypovolemia is a low level of fluid in the body. Lower levels of blood make it difficult to get nutrients and oxygen to the entire body. Hypovolemia will affect the entire body but certain organs are at higher risk of damage. Organs that are very active like the heart, kidney, brain, and liver may be affected the most.

Cardiopulmonary System
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This condition is serious. Your baby will need care right away.


Hypovolemia may be caused by:

  • Blood loss–from an injury or illness
  • Dehydration which may be caused by:
    • Problems absorbing fluids in the digestive tract
    • Trouble feeding
    • Illness with vomiting or diarrhea

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your baby’s risk of getting hypovolemia include:

  • Trauma, including complications at birth
  • Trauma with excessive bleeding
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • A severe burn
  • Certain medications
  • Surgery
  • Infection
  • Illness of intestines or stomach


Symptoms may include:

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Cool, clammy skin
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Weakness
  • Abnormal drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Absence of tears
  • Reduced urine output
  • Changes in breathing


You will be asked about your baby’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Your doctor may check your baby’s blood flow by putting pressure on a nail bed.


Talk with your baby’s doctor about the best treatment plan.

Options include:

Replacing Fluids and Improving Blood Flow

Your baby may have:

  • Rehydration therapy—fluids and electrolytes may be given by mouth, feeding tube, or IV
  • Packed red blood cells—blood given from a donor; may be needed if large amounts of blood have been lost

Your baby’s legs may also be elevated. This will increase the amount of blood going to the heart and brain.

Fluid Replacement
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Managing the Underlying Cause

Additional treatment will depend on the cause of hypovolemia:

  • Medication may be needed to help manage diarrhea, vomiting, or blood pressure in severe cases
  • Your baby may also need an IV or feeding tube for the duration of the illness. These will deliver fluids until your baby can feed again.
  • Any bleeding will also need to be managed. Surgery and/or stitches may be needed to repair injuries.


There is no known way to prevent hypovolemia. It is important to notice signs of dehydration and begin treatment right away.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: Kari Kassir, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2015 -
  • Update Date: 09/30/2014 -
  • Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics

  • National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

  • Canadian Pediatric Society

  • Sick Kids—The Hospital for Sick Children

  • Day R, Paul P, Williams B. Textbook of Canadian Medical-Surgical Nursing. 2nd ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2009. Available at: Accessed September 15, 2015.

  • Dehydration and hypovolemia in infants and children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated January 5, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015.