Diarrhea is usually is not a sign of a serious illness, but it can make children lose fluids, salts, and minerals.
What Causes Diarrhea?
Diarrhea is usually caused by an infection in the intestines. The germs that cause the infection are:
- Viruses (most common) such as Rotavirus
- Bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella
Children can sometimes get diarrhea from other causes including food allergies, lactose intolerance, or other problems in the intestines.
What are the symptoms of diarrhea?
Children often get crampy belly pain first, followed by diarrhea that can last 3–5 days. Other symptoms may include:
- Loose and frequent poops
- Cramping belly pain
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling tired
- Weight loss
What to do:
- Continue your child’s regular diet and give more liquid
- Ideally, provide additional breast milk or formula to infants
- You can use an oral rehydration solution (ORS) to replace lost fluids
What not to do:
- Do not give plain water to infants
- Avoid sugary drinks because they may make diarrhea worse
- Do not give your child an anti-diarrhea medicine unless a healthcare professional prescribed it
When to get medical help?
You should call your doctor if your child:
- is younger than 6 months old
- has severe or lasting diarrhea
- vomits repeatedly or refuses to drink liquids
- is peeing less than usual
- has severe belly pain
- has diarrhea that contains blood or mucus
Signs of emergency
Seek medical help right away if your child has:
- a dry or sticky mouth
- few or no tears when crying
- eyes that look sunken
- peeing less or fewer wet diapers
- drowsiness or dizziness
- the soft spot (fontanelle) on top of the head of your baby looks sunken
How to prevent Diarrhea?
- Make sure children wash their hands well and often, especially after using the toilet and before eating, to avoid infections from germs that can cause diarrhea
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly with drinkable water before eating
- Don’t let your child eat uncooked vegetables in restaurants when you are not sure how they were washed
- If you give your child meat, refrigerate it all the time and cook the meat until it’s no longer pink. Meat and dairy products carry many bacteria and need to be handled with extra care
Dr. Piyawut Kreetapirom, MD. (1 July 2020)