Diarrhea in children is not something many parents like to talk about. But that does not make it go away. Millions of kids get diarrhea every year.
Diarrhea is loose, watery stool. It is a common ailment of children and adults (and sometimes pets) and may be caused by viral infections (such as gastroenteritis or the stomach flu), ingestion of food or water that is contaminated with germs, eating too much of certain foods (including milk and other dairy products, ice cream, sodas, doughnuts, and yeast bread), or side effects from certain medications.
Common Causes and Treatments
Diarrhea is the body’s way of ridding itself of germs, and most episodes last a few days to a week. Kids get diarrhea for many different reasons, including bacterial infections (such as E. coli), viruses, or other illnesses that produce stomach distress. In most cases, diarrhea is not serious and kids bounce back quickly.
Viruses cause most cases of infectious diarrhea in children. While fluids are important for fighting off the infection, replacing lost minerals is also crucial. Pedialyte rehydrates quickly and replaces lost electrolytes to keep your child comfortable, allowing for faster recovery.
When treating viral gastroenteritis, it is important to prevent fluid loss. Offer additional breast milk or an oral rehydration solution (ORS) to infants and young children. Water alone does not have enough sodium, potassium, and other nutrients to safely rehydrate very young children.
When you have the stomach flu, you lose fluids through vomiting and diarrhea. It is important to get those fluids back. Give your child extra breast milk or an oral rehydration solution (ORS), such as Pedialyte, to replace what they have lost. Water alone does not have enough sodium, potassium, and other nutrients to safely rehydrate very young children. If your child is old enough to drink out of a cup, make sure they get plenty of liquids — even water — to help them recover faster.
If your child has traveled outside the country recently, it is important to have their stool tested. However, if your child has had diarrhea for more than two weeks, consult a doctor.
Children and adults can experience diarrhea when taking certain medications. Medications such as laxatives or antibiotics can lead to a loss of needed nutrients and cause diarrhea in children as well as adults.
If your child develops diarrhea while taking antibiotics, you will need to keep them hydrated. This oral electrolyte solution is designed for that purpose. If a course of antibiotics is causing your child’s diarrhea—for example, from taking a broad-spectrum antibiotic prescribed to treat an upper respiratory infection—and you are continuing the medication and may need more time to identify and treat the cause, be sure to continue administering the medicine.
When you are taking antibiotics, it is common to have loose or watery stools. This may be caused by the antibiotics you are taking and they can be very uncomfortable. Probiotics help replenish healthy gut bacteria killed by antibiotics, and yogurt with live cultures or probiotics can help ease diarrhea caused by antibiotics.
- Food poisoning: It is not always easy to tell what is causing a stomach illness in your kids. Symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting may seem like a simple stomach bug, but other common causes include food poisoning. Food poisoning can be especially hard to spot in kids because their symptoms may come on suddenly and get better just as quickly. Related diarrhea that your child is experiencing is the same type of diarrhea that results from infection, so it is treated in the same way. To help your child keep hydrated, give him or her plenty of frequent liquids such as juice, water, or broth. If they are not having any bloody diarrhea, consult your doctor with any questions.
- Diarrhea is not serious if it is caused by an infection or if it does not last more than two days. However, other causes of diarrhea include irritable bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, food allergies, and celiac disease. This can be a sign you have an underlying medical condition that needs treatment. If you are not sure what is causing your child’s diarrhea, give your doctor a call.
Recognizing Dehydration & Malabsorption
Dehydration is a common complication of diarrhea in children. Severe diarrhea can cause the loss of 8 or more ounces of body fluid per day. This represents a significant percentage of the body’s water supply, and it must be replenished.
Malabsorption is a condition that occurs when your body cannot absorb nutrients from food. Several diseases can cause malabsorption, including celiac disease and gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance, tropical sprue syndrome (an illness caused by parasites), and more.
Malabsorption can be hard to detect in children. Symptoms may include bloating, changes in appetite, gas, loose and foul-smelling stool, and weight loss or poor weight gain.
Although diarrhea can be uncomfortable, the vast majority of children with diarrhea do not become dehydrated. Dehydration is caused by fluid loss and occurs when a child has lost more fluid than he or she has consumed. If a child does become dehydrated, he or she may need to be hospitalized for several days for intensive treatment and monitoring.
2-3 loose or watery stools in the past 12 hours, weighing less than what they did at the height of their last illness. Severe dehydration is dangerous; it can cause seizures, brain damage, and even death. Know the signs of dehydration. Call your doctor or go to the ER if your child has:
So, if your baby or toddler is showing some of these signs, they may be dehydrated: dry, sticky mouth, few or no tears when crying, cool, dry skin, and lack of energy.
When to Call a Doctor about Your Child’s Diarrhea
Diarrhea in children is a common problem. Most cases of diarrhea go away in a few days, but it can cause complications. Call your doctor if your child has any of these symptoms: Diarrhea that lasts more than 72 hours Fever with the diarrhea Blood (red or pink) in the stool Painful belly when your child passes gas Vomiting sour smelling stools.
Call the local emergency number if your child
- is too weak to stand up
- is confused or dizzy
- has trouble breathing
- seems sleepy, tired, or limp
Call your doctor right away if your child
- Your child needs a lot of good nutrients to grow and stay healthy. As your child grows, you will get good advice from your doctor or other health professionals about how much of these nutrients your child needs. Here are the amounts for young children, birth to 6 months old.
- Your child’s doctor will want to know about: Fever over 100.4° F for more than 1-day Vomiting bloody or green or yellow fluid Sore throat and pain when swallowing Redness, swelling, or tenderness of the eyes; face rash; a severe diaper rash; or mouth sores that are slow to heal.
- Seems dehydrated – dehydration can result in the loss of muscle control, seizures, and ultimately death. Has bloody stool – it could mean that his or her intestines are bleeding. Is less than a month old with three or more episodes of diarrhea – this means that your baby is at risk for an electrolyte imbalance that can result in brain damage.
- If your child has diarrhea, they may need a special diet or medicine to prevent dehydration. The best way to keep your child safe is to contact your doctor immediately if they are experiencing dehydration symptoms including no tears when crying, dry mouth and lips, excessively sleepy or irritability, or small amounts of urine passed.
- if your child has a rash, stomach pain for more than two hours, or has not urinated in 6 hours if a baby or 12 hours if a child. These could be signs of serious side effects.
Disclaimer: “HealthLink.news does not have any intention to provide specific medical advice, but rather to provide its users and/ or the general public with information to better understand their health. All content (including text, graphics, images, information, etc.) provided herein is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, care, diagnosis, or treatment. HealthLink.news makes no representation and assumes no responsibility/ liability for the accuracy of the information, advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided herein or on its website. NEVER DISREGARD PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE OR DELAY IN SEEKING TREATMENT BECAUSE OF SOMETHING YOU HAVE READ IT HERE OR ACCESSED THROUGH THE HealthLink.news WEBSITE.”