Diarrhea in children: What you should know

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Diarrhea in children

Diarrhea could be quite distressing to the child as well as the parents. Most of us know the home remedies meant to control diarrhea in adults. However, these remedies are not meant to be used for children.

What medicines should you give? How long should you wait till you visit a doctor? What are the biggest concerns when it comes to managing diarrhea? Let us find out one by one.

What causes diarrhea?

Diarrhea is the stools expelled from the body before they get a chance to be well-formed. In the large intestine, water is absorbed from the fecal matter and this leads to the formation of solid stools.

The consistency of the stools largely depends on the time the fecal matter spends in the large intestine.

The longer it is there, more water is absorbed, and the stools tend to be harder. On the other hand, when the fecal matter is rushed through the large intestine, the stools are loose, often watery.

Diarrhea could be caused by;

➲A stomach and bowel infection (gastroenteritis) caused by parasites, bacteria, or viruses
➲Food allergy
➲Inflammatory bowel syndrome (Chron's disease and Ulcerative colitis)

Common pathogens that cause diarrhea in children are parasites causing Giardiasis and Amoebiasis, viruses like Norovirus and Rotavirus, and bacteria like E. coli. Most of these pathogens spread due to contamination of food or water. Rotavirus is particularly contagious and may spread easily in playgroups. So, one needs to take diarrhea in any form seriously.

Risks of an unmanaged diarrhea

Diarrhea does not just cause an 'inconvenience' for the children. Unmanaged diarrhea can lead to serious consequences, causing dehydration in children. It is particularly serious for younger babies as even a small loss of body water due to diarrhea can lead to severe morbidity in children, causing seizures, brain damage or even death.

Managing a child with diarrhea

➧Take your child to a doctor if there is/are
➧More than 6 episodes of loose motions in 24 hours
➧Blood or mucus in the stools
➧Watery stools
➧Severe tummy ache
➧sticky, foul-smelling stools
➧More than 3 episodes of vomiting in the last 24 hours
➧Mild, but persistent diarrhea even after 5-7 days
➧Signs of dehydration, for instance, fewer wet diapers. It means that the cause needs treatment in addition to symptomatic relief. However, start the management even as you seek medical help.

Here are three things you do to ensure that the diarrhea is contained and not worsened.

Ensure that your child is hydrated

Give your child regular sips of water to avoid dehydration. DO NOT stop breastfeeding or formula-feeding the baby just because of the condition. However, ensure that the water you use to reconstitute the formula is boiled properly, and the bottles are sterilized effectively. I personally think that you should use steam sterilization instead of chemical or UV sterilization in such cases. If you can, use boiled tap water/filtered water to cook their food. Do not force-feed them.

Give them ORS solution if the episodes of diarrhea are worse. Ask your pharmacist for age-appropriate intake of ORS. You can give them coconut water if they like, but DO NOT give them juices. The glucose in the juices help harmful bacteria to flourish in the intestines and the diarrhea is worsened.

If your baby is in diapers, check for the urine output by keeping a count on the wet diapers. If your child is toilet trained, ask him every time he pees. If possible, ask him to pee in your presence and check for the color of urine. If it is very dark, contact your doctor.


Do not medicate the child on your own to stop diarrhea. If your child is in pain, you can give Paracetamol, but do that only if you need to. Your doctor will analyze the symptoms and then give an appropriate treatment. As mentioned before, don't forget to keep a few packets of ORS solution handy.

Ensure hygiene

Most of these pathogens can spread easily from child to child. So, encourage your children to wash their hands with soap and water every time they return home, and before and after each meal. Also, dispose of the soiled diapers carefully, wrapped in plastic bags to prevent contamination.

Before and after every diaper change, ensure that you wash the hands thoroughly with soap and water.

In addition, don't share the towels, linen, utensils, cutlery used by the child with anyone else. Wash these in hot water and soap and dry them separately.

Lastly, avoid sending the child to school for at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhea.

Mums, it is critical that the early symptoms of diarrhea are not ignored. It might just save a lot of agonies later on.

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