Electrolyte Imbalance in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Electrolytes are minerals in the blood, such as sodium and potassium. When they are not at the right levels, your child can feel very ill. Your child may feel weak or numb, have muscle spasms, or twitch. His or her heart may beat fast. Symptoms are different with each mineral. Too much is as bad as too little.

Minerals help keep the body working as it should. Vomiting, diarrhea, and fever can cause your child to lose minerals. A problem with the kidneys can tip a mineral out of balance. So can taking certain medicines.

Your doctor may do more tests. Your child's medicine and diet may be changed. If your child is low in one or more minerals, they may be given through a tube into a vein (I.V.). Your doctor may have your child take or drink special fluids or pills. If your child's kidneys are failing, his or her blood may be filtered. This is called dialysis. It can put the minerals back in balance.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with his or her medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Do not give any medicine without talking to your doctor first. This includes prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal medicines.
  • If your child has kidney, heart, or liver disease and has to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids your child drinks.
  • Your doctor or dietitian may give you a diet plan to help balance your child's minerals. Follow the diet carefully.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child's heartbeat seems to be irregular. It might be speeding up and then slowing down or skipping beats.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has muscle aches.
  • Your child feels very weak.
  • Your child is confused or cannot think clearly.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.