When your child is sick with a fever, vomiting, or diarrhea, dehydration is a real concern. But what you give your child to drink can ultimately propel them toward health or further away from it. This homemade pedialyte recipe provides adequate amounts of sugar & replacement minerals, is gentle on the stomach, and is made from REAL food instead of lab-derived chemicals.
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How Much Fluids Should a Child have When Sick?
Before we get into our DIY pedialyte recipe, first let’s talk about how to replace fluids when your child is sick.
The main goal when our children are sick is to prevent dehydration, which is defined by the WHO as excessive body loss of water and electrolyte abnormalities most commonly caused by vomiting and diarrhea. Fever increases metabolic demand of cells and therefore uses up the body’s fluids faster as well.
Related: Home Remedies for Fever
But how can you tell if your child is dehydrated?
Sadly, your child can be mildly dehydrated without any outward signs! In fact, it isn’t until your child has already lost 10% of their body fluids before you may start to notice things like increased heart rate, fast breathing, and irritability. (source)
If you notice any of these signs in your child there is no time to lose!
If you have a sick infant, the best thing to do is nurse them more frequently. But if your baby lacks the energy to nurse then you should pump milk and use a syringe to ensure they are getting breastmilk every hour.
In my NICU days, rehydrating kids intravenously was done by ml/kg/hr (that’s milliliters per kilogram per hour). Although that doesn’t apply to oral rehydration at home, I mentioned this to emphasis that you will need to stay on top of hydration on an hourly basis if you are to be successful at maintaining equilibrium.
I will include a graph and a link to the article for any parents who like things to be done in a scientific way. But as a general rule of thumb, try to replace the same amount of fluid they lose whether it is in the form of diarrhea or vomiting, and then provide at least 2 tbs an hour as maintenance. (source)
Related: Best foods for feverish children
There are 30 ml per ounce and 1 ounce is 2 tbs. A 25 pound child weighs 11.4 kg and therefore needs 11.4 ml/hr or a little less than 1 tbs per hour as maintenance.
Homemade Pedialyte vs Store-Bought
I’m excited to share this homemade pedialyte recipe with you because it is so easy.
What makes the most sense for a child to drink when they are sick?
Natural fluids like apple juice or broths of course! Not things made in a lab.
Let’s do a compare and contrast of the nutrition label of apple juice vs Pedialyte AdvancedCare.
Pedialyte AdvancedCare Nutrition Label
You get 25 calories, 6 grams of sugar, 370 mg of sodium, 280 mg of potassium, 2.6 mg of zinc, and 440 mg of chloride from 12 oz of Pedialyte AdvancedCare.
Now let’s look at apple juice.
Apple Juice Nutrition Label
You get 114 calories, 23.9 g of sugar, 0.3 g of fat, 0.2 g of protein, 9.9 mg of sodium, 251 mg of potassium, 12.4 mg of magnesium, and 17.2 mg of phosphorus in 8 ounces of apple juice.
Now let’s compare the ingredients of these two products.
We don’t have to take a deep dive in chemistry class to question the strange-sounding ingredients in Pedialyte. I am not going to take the time to break down each and every one of these ingredients, but I do want to give some insight on a few of them.
Let’s start with Acesulfame Potassium, which is an artificial sweetener that changes the gut microbiome and increases inflammation. (source) Not ideal in general but especially not while sick!
Lastly, let’s consider the fact that Pedialyte contains two different artificial food dyes, Blue 1 and Red 40. These dyes are derived from petroleum, are carcinogenic, and are associated with behavioral problems in children. (source)
Ingredients in Apple Juice
When I buy apple juice, I always look at the ingredient label because most of the kid-friendly juice boxes still contain “Natural Flavors.”
All we want for our DIY pedialyte is plain ole juice!
In case you are worried that apple juice is too acidic for our homemade pedialyte, this study found that children with mild gastroenteritis and minimal dehydration benefited from diluted apple juice. Apple juice was associated with less complications (such as the need for hospitalization and IV therapy) than when an electrolyte maintenance fluid was used.
In fact, apples are one of the preferred foods to give children with gastritis.
DIY Pedialyte Recipe
1 cup of organic apple juice
1/2 cup of filtered water
1/8 tsp Himalayan pink salt
1/2 dropper of ginger extract (optional for upset stomach)
Warm the water on stovetop but do not bring to boil. Mix the pink salt in the warmed water until dissolved. Add the apple juice to the warmed water. You can also add a 1/2 dropper of ginger extract to boost immunity and to ease an upset stomach. Stir well. Store in a mason jar in the fridge and shake before serving.
It is better to serve beverages at room temperature than cold so there is less work for the body to warm the fluids before digestion.
What Else Can You Rehydrate With?
I love offering homemade kombucha to my son when he is sick. The fermented drink is much easier to digest and packed with nutrients. You can also use store bought as well!
We also always keep bone broth on hand which is packed with amino acids and healthy fat. Bone broth is a perfect liquid meal for a sick kid and it also gives natural zinc.
Lastly, especially when there is a fever, a cold popsicle makes a great snack to replace fluids, offer vitamins, and take the edge off the fever. Here is a mold I love for homemade popsicles.
I hope this recipe is helpful to you. Check out my post on how I stock my natural medicine cabinet for more ideas on natural remedies to heal sick kids.