Acute Diarrhoea-Children

acute diarrhoea-children

Diarrhea can be acute (sudden onset and lasts less than two weeks) or chronic (persistent). The main risk is dehydration. The main treatment is to give your child lots to drink. Also, encourage your child to eat as normally as possible once dehydration is corrected.

What causes acute diarrhea?

Infection of the gut is the common cause.

A virus is the common cause of infective diarrhea in children below the age of one year. This virus is called Rotavirus and it is possible to immunize your child against rotavirus infection. Adenovirus is another common cause.

Food poisoning (eating food infected with microbes) causes some cases of diarrhea. Food poisoning is usually caused by a bacterial infection. Toxins (poisons) produced by bacteria can also cause food poisoning.

Water contaminated by germs is another common cause of infective diarrhea.

Symptoms of acute infectious diarrhea
  • Symptoms can range from a mild stomach upset for a day or two with slight diarrhea, to severe watery diarrhea for several days or longer. To be called diarrhea the child should pass loose watery stools at least three times in 24 hours. Blood or mucus can appear in the stools with some infections.
  • Crampy pains in the abdomen are common. In severe cases vomiting, fever may also develop.
Symptoms of dehydration

Diarrhea and vomiting may cause dehydration (a lack of water in the body). It is very important you’re your child does not dehydrate. Seek medical advice quickly if you suspect that your child is becoming dehydrated. Mild dehydration is common and is usually easily reversed by drinking lots of fluids. Severe dehydration can be fatal unless quickly treated.

Symptoms of dehydration in children include: passing little urine, a dry mouth, a dry tongue and lips, fewer tears when crying, sunken eyes, weakness, being irritable or lethargic.

It is very important to watch for such critical signs as: drowsiness, cold dry skin, cold hands or feet, very few wet nappies, fast (but often shallow) breathing.

Dehydration is more likely to occur in:
  1. Babies under the age of one year (and particularly those under six months old).
  2. Babies under the age of one year who were a low birth weight.
  3. A breast-fed baby that has stopped breast-feeding during their illness.
  4. Any baby or child who does not drink much when they have gastroenteritis.
  5. Any baby or child with severe diarrhea and vomiting (greater than 6 episodes)
When should you seek medical advice?
  1. If your child is under the age of six months.
  2. If your child has an underlying medical condition (for example, heart or kidney problems, diabetes, history of premature birth).
  3. If your child has a fever.
  4. If your child appears drowsy or confused.
  5. If your child is vomiting and unable to keep fluids down.
  6. If there is blood in their diarrhea or vomit.
  7. If your child has severe abdominal pain.
  8. If your child has severe symptoms or if you feel that their condition is getting worse.
  9. If your child's symptoms are not settling even after supportive treatment for 48 hours

Fluids to prevent dehydration

The standard ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution) as recommended by the World Health Organization is very effective at combating mild to moderate dehydration and can be easily prepared at home using clean drinking water, salt and sugar in the following proportion.

2 table sp. Sugar; 0.5 tsp. salt; 1 liter water

You should encourage your child to take plenty of fluids. The aim is to prevent dehydration (low body fluid). The fluid lost in their vomit and/or diarrhea needs to be replaced. Your child should continue with their normal diet. In addition, they should also be encouraged to drink extra fluids. However, avoid fruit juices or carbonated drinks, as these can make diarrhea worse because of their high glucose load.

  • If your child vomits, wait 5-10 minutes and then start giving drinks again, but more slowly.
  • Breast-fed babies should continue to be breast-fed if they will take it.
  • Bottle-fed babies should be fed with their normal full-strength feeds if they will take it.
  • Older children - offer them some food every now and then. However, if he or she does not want to eat, that is fine. Drinks are the most important.
  • Severe dehydration is life threatening and should not be ignored. The child needs to be admitted in a hospital and fluids need to be given through a vein to rapidly treat the fluid loss.
  • If your baby has diarrhea, be especially careful to wash your hands after changing nappies and before preparing, serving, or eating food.
  • Regularly clean the toilets used, with disinfectant.
  • Make sure your child washes their hands after going to the toilet.
  • If clothing or bedding is soiled, first remove any feces into the toilet. Then wash in a separate wash at as high a temperature as possible.
  • Don't let your child share towels.

As mentioned earlier, rotavirus is the most common cause of infective diarrhoea in children. There is an effective vaccine against rotavirus. These drops are to be given at 2 and 3 months old.

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