In infants and children, diarrhea is very common. Diarrhea is diagnosed if the stool is thin and watery and the child has more frequent bowel movements.
How diarrhea develops
Usually, a bowel infection is responsible for the onset of diarrhea. The pathogens are viruses or bacteria and enter the intestine through the mouth where they cause inflammation of the intestinal wall. The pathogen can be transmitted via feces or saliva, the toilet, the fingers or dirty kitchenware. You must also be aware of contaminated water or food that is spoiled, containing bacteria that can cause bowel infection.
A more benign cause of diarrhea is when the child drinks too much fruit juice, especially apple juice.
Diarrhea is often associated with vomiting, and occasionally fever. In some cases, the child may have painful stomach cramps. A child with diarrhea often loses a lot of water, especially with a fever. If the child doesn't drink enough, then they can dehydrate very easily, especially young children under 2.
Children under 2 years of age can become dehydrated in under 24 hours, with older children taking a few days.
Symptoms of dehydration
Actions to take
Give the child to drink more than usual; it is vital to replace the lost water. You can continue breast or bottle feeding. If the child drinks well, dilution may not be necessary.
If the child will not take much milk, it can be diluted, or made lukewarm so it's easier to drink. Give your child something to drink after each bout of diarrhead. Additional water may help, for example a tablespoon every 5 minutes or so.
Prevention of contamination
Diarrhea is easily transferred via faeces or saliva. Good hygiene is vital in preventing contamination. Changing diapers regularly is important, as is hand washing often. Keep the sink and toilet clean, and any toys which have been touched.
The first port of call should be a pharmacy or a drugstore. There are oral rehydration solutions, usually in powder form, which can be added to water. Always read the label. Some children think ORS taste foul, so put it in something tasty.
Contacting the doctor
Contact your doctor immediately if your child is under 2 years and:
If the child is older than 2 years, contact the doctor if: