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Intravenous fluid therapy in children and young people in hospital

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Last updated:9th Dec 2015

This guideline covers general principles for managing intravenous (IV) fluids for children and young people under 16 years, including assessing fluid and electrolyte status and prescribing IV fluid therapy. It applies to a range of conditions and different settings. It does not include recommendations relating to specific conditions. This guideline represents a major opportunity to improve patient safety for children and young people having IV fluid therapy in hospital.

Correct fluid and electrolyte balance is essential to maintain physiological function. Normally, children and young people get the fluid they need by drinking. Many children and young people admitted to hospital may be too ill to drink so may need intravenous (IV) fluid therapy to correct or maintain their fluid and electrolyte balance.

Children and young people may need IV fluids to account for losses of red blood cells, plasma, water or electrolytes beyond the usual losses in urine, stools and sweat. These losses can come from burns, diarrhoea, vomiting or leakage of fluid into the interstitial space. In these cases the aim is to replace any depleted fluids and restore electrolyte balance. Conditions such as cardiac dysfunction, liver disease, inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion and nephrotic syndrome can result in an excess of fluids in the body, known as fluid overload. If this happens, the aim is to rebalance and redistribute fluids and ensure the correct levels of electrolytes.

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