Diarrhea is when stools (bowel movements) are loose, watery and increased frequency when compared to a normal amount. It is a common problem that may last a few days and disappear on its own.
However, diarrhea can be dangerous if not managed properly. This is because it drains water and salts from your child’s body. If these fluids are not replaced quickly, your child can become dehydrated and may need to be hospitalized.
Diarrhea may be; acute (short-term, usually lasting several days) or chronic (long-term, lasting longer than four weeks).
What causes diarrhea?
Diarrhea in children may be caused by a number of conditions, including the following:
- Bacterial infection
- Viral infection
- Food intolerances or allergies
- Reaction to medications
- An intestinal disease, such as chron’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- A functional bowel disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome
- A result of surgery on the stomach or gallbladder
What are the symptoms of diarrhea?
The following are the most common symptoms of diarrhea. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Consult your child’s health care provider if any or all of the following symptoms persist:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Abdominal bloating
- Urgent need to use the restroom
- Fever and chills
- Loss of body fluids
- Inability to control bowel movements
When should I call the doctor?
Call your doctor or seek medical advice if your child:
- Blood in the stool
- Frequent vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Sunken eyes
- High fever
- Dry, sticky mouth
- Weight loss
- Extreme thirst
- Decrease in urine output/wet diapers
- Dry lips and mouth
- Lack of tears when crying
- Increased irritability and fussiness
- Decreased energy level
What is the treatment for diarrhea?
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Treatment usually involves replacing lost fluids. Antibiotics may be prescribed when bacterial infections are the cause. For kids who show signs of mild dehydration, doctors often recommend rehydration with an oral rehydration solution (ORS).
Home remedies for diarrhea
- Keep breastfeeding your baby. Breastfed babies often have less diarrhea. Have your child relax after meals with quiet play or a nap. This will slow bowel action.
- Offer drinks called glucose-electrolyte solutions. These fluids have the right balance of water, sugar, and salts.
- Avoid juice or soda. They may make diarrhea worse.
- Offer small amounts of food more often instead of large meals only a few times a day.
- Avoid spicy foods, fried or fatty foods, and milk products.
- Avoid high-fiber foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, dried fruit.
- Encourage a soft, bland diet that is high in potassium such as bananas, potatoes.
- Slowly add bland, low-fiber solid food, such as mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, canned fruit, and oyster or saltine crackers.
What can I do to prevent diarrhea?
Hand washing is the most effective way to prevent diarrheal infections that pass from person to person.
- Make sure kids wash their hands well and often, especially after using the toilet and before eating. Dirty hands carry germs into the body. When kids put any part of their hands containing germs into their mouths.
- Keep bathroom surfaces clean.
- Wash fruits and vegetables well before eating.
- Wash kitchen counters and cooking utensils thoroughly.
- Refrigerate meats as soon as possible after bringing them home from the store.
- Cook food well before eating.
- Refrigerate all leftover foods as soon as possible.
- Never drink from streams, springs, or lakes unless approved for drinking.