Diarrhoea or an upset stomach is a serious problem in children. In fact, if left untreated, it can be deadly.
Lasting up to several days, acute and chronic diarrhoea at night causes the child to lose essential fluids and salt from the body. This leaves them under-nourished and prone to infections.
Before, we go any further, let’s understand the two main types of diarrhoea in children:
- Acute diarrhoea: This is a short-term condition that’s mostly caused by contaminated food or water. It lasts for 2-3 days.
- Chronic diarrhoea: This is a persistent or long-term condition that may last for up to a few weeks and may also develop into other serious issues. This can sometimes also be referred to as ‘recurrent diarrhoea’.
How to identify the causes of diarrhoea in your children
Common reasons that lead to diarrhoea in children include:
- Viral infection of the gut
- Bacterial infections
- Food poisoning
- Parasitic infection
- Antibiotic-associated diarrhoea
- Under-nutrition/ Malnutrition
- Water contamination
- Inflammation of the gut
- Food intolerance, including lactose intolerance
- Other infections
What are the symptoms of diarrhoea?
Diarrhoea in children consists of the following symptoms:
- Increased bowel movement frequency with consequent dehydration
- Cramping pain
- Belly ache
- Bloating of stomach
- Bloody stools
Though the symptoms indicative of diarrhoea in children can differ from one kid to another.
Diarrhoea in children: What are the complications in kids to watch out for?
The greatest complication a child stands to suffer from diarrhoea is dehydration. If coupled with a weakened immune system, it could immensely impact a young child.
Dehydration is 3 degrees – mild, moderate, and severe. While mild dehydration is just the loss of fluids, moderate dehydration will put stress on the heart and the lungs. Severe dehydration will lead to shock, which is a life-threatening scenario.
To evaluate if a child has diarrhoea and determine its severity, doctors will perform a physical exam and review their medical history. In rare cases, diagnostic testing may be required. Some of the common tests are stool evaluation and one must test to see if your child is dehydrated; these tests include extreme temperature tests, and skin elasticity tests. Temperature test is a simple way in which by placing the thermometer under the tongue, just to one side of the centre, you can get to know the little one’s temperature. While skin elasticity test is also called the snap test wherein by pinching the under-eye skin with the forefinger and thumb, you may notice how quickly or delayed the skin gets back to its original position.
When should a parent seek medical advice on paediatric diarrhoea?
Ideally, if you see your child having more than 2-3 loose watery stools in a day, it is advisable to consult a paediatrician.
How can you treat diarrhoea in your child?
To overcome diarrhoea in kids, several treatments can be sought.
- Home Care: Suitable oral rehydration solutions are most useful to combat diarrhoea in kids.
- Medications: A doctor must evaluate acute watery diarrhoea in a child before advising any anti-diarrhoeal agent or antibiotics. However, as per studies, switching to probiotics can help alleviate the problem to some extent. A probiotic that is good for the entire family including infants below 1 year and toddlers is Normagut. Normagut is available in a capsule and sachet form that contains S. boulardii–a natural defence for the prevention & treatment of different types of diarrhoea by protecting and restoring the normal flora in the gut. It is very important for parents to avoid self-medicating and follow the instructions of a paediatrician at all times.
It is important to identify diarrhoea in children and treat it quickly, or it can lead to severe complications such as high-output diarrhoea, persistent vomiting, etc. The severity of diarrhoea can also lead to conditions such as pneumonia, bacterial sepsis, urinary tract infection and more, all of which can be lethal when combined with recurrent diarrhoea in children.
Can you prevent diarrhoea in children?
Parents can take some key measures to prevent the disease, limit it and avoid it from happening again. These include:
- Ensuring safe access of water to the child
- Only breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life
- Improving house sanitation
- Practising hand washing with soap before and after meals, upon return from play/outdoor activities, etc.
- Imparting good hygiene practices in the kid
- Rotavirus vaccination for the child
Diarrhoea in kids: Immunisation and Rotaviral diarrhoea
Rotaviral diarrhoea is caused by a highly contagious virus that leads to severe diarrhoea in infants and young children. Symptoms start appearing within 2-3 days of exposure and include fever and vomiting followed by watery diarrhoea, and abdominal pain as well.
Parents must rush the child to a doctor if the diarrhoea has lasted more than 24 hours with black stool and a high temperature.
The World Health Organisation suggests vaccination against Rotavirus as the proper prevention. Check with your paediatrician if your child has received their vaccination or to check their vaccination schedule.
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