Acute Diarrhea in Young Children

Acute Diarrhea in Young Children

  Autor NN Team Data: 18.03.2009

Acute Diarrhea in Young Children
The acute diarrhea in children is characterized by frequent watery stools. Most episodes are acute, lasting between 2-3 days and 2 weeks. A diarrheal episode which lasts more than 4 weeks is considered to be chronic diarrhea. 

For the beginning, the problem is to identify the infant and little child diarrhea. At children, the stools are more frequent and quite watery with a different smell each time. This is when you have to trust your mother instinct. You probably already know your baby's body and you managed to see what a normal stool is, the consistency and the frequency. First, the frequency of stools shows you that something is wrong. If the child has had more stool than usually, lately, this must raise a question. Also, be careful at the other symptoms too. As the diarrhea is usually caused by a bacteria or a virus, it's possible to be associated with fever, fatigue, anorexia and a general discomfort. If during the last days, you have made changes to your baby's diet, is he is at the age of the first teeth or if he takes a medication, antibiotics for example, then it might probably be the diarrhea. 
Many children suffer from at least one diarrheal episode in the first years of life. The most cases resolve by themselves, but this doesn't mean that the disease is not dangerous. Diarrhea might be very harmful, causing dehydration and losing of electrolyte balance, at such small bodies. There are many things which can cause diarrhea at young children. It might be an infection (bacteria, a virus, a parasite), certain medicines, certain foods intolerance or a food allergy. A very frequent cause of diarrhea in infants, is a viral gastroenteritis which might be caused by more viruses. 
The most frequent are the rotavirus, adenovirus and astrovirus. The infection with rotavirus is the most common cause of acute diarrhea in children. 
However, some episodes are caused by food. Milk and dairy products, especially a protein contained in them, produces many food allergies in young children, and one of the symptoms is the diarrhea. Also, these products cause diarrhea in children with lactose intolerance. Some fruit juices (apples, pears, cherries) contain sorbitol, a type of complex sugar which could be hard to digest by a young child and which could also lead to diarrhea. 
The mild cases of diarrhea maybe treated at home, especially in children over 1 year of age. However, the doctor should be seen as a matter of urgency, of the infant is very little (a few months), if the stool if very watery and if the child is vomiting, if the stool contains blood, mucus or pus, if the fever is over 38 degrees and if the little one has more than 8 stools in eight hours. Also, you must be careful at the dehydration symptoms: no wet diaper in three hours, crying without tears, apathy, drowsiness, irritability, dry mouth and tongue. Each of these reasons is enough to contact the pediatrician urgently, or to go the emergency room. The diarrhea might be a severe problem for an infant. 
The diarrhea treatment focuses on the prevention and/ or treatment of the dehydration. For this, you must maintain a constant level of liquids and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) by oral administration of a special liquid (rehydration solution) which if found at the drug store. Read the leaflet carefully before administration and follow the advice of the pharmacist. Don't imagine that the rehydration solution will cure the diarrhea. It only has the role to maintain the electrolytes balance. Don't forget that you shouldn't remove the liquids from the menu of a child with diarrhea. 

Another thing that you might do if the diarrhea is mild and the doctor won't recommend a special treatment: 
Give your child just the rehydration solution for his intestinal tract to settle a little. If he is vomiting, give him water or unsweetened teat to drink with small sips. If the little one eats solid food after these few hours, reintroduce food gradually in his diet, starting with easy to digest food: mashed bananas, boiled carrots, boiled rice, mash potatoes. If the immunity of your child is strong, he will remove the diarrhea cause in 1-10 days. Don't administer any kind of medicine, anti-diarrheal or antibiotics if they weren't prescribed by the doctor. 
When you notice that the treatment has good results, you may continue with dietary cottage cheese, white bread toast, boiled lean meat, on the next day. Although the child is better and he has recovered completely, it's good to go on with this diet for a few days, to allow the digestive tract to fully recover. Even when the child gets back to the normal feeding, it's good for him to avoid sweets for a while, cow milk, peas, cabbage, beans, cauliflower. 
These advices are addressed to mothers with children over one year of age, with mild diarrhea. If this is the case, it's good to see the doctor too, before taking any measure, especially if we want to resort to medicine. More so, if the infant is little and the diarrhea is serious, we need the doctor's advice. Sometimes, the child must be treated in the hospital, with perfusions and other specific measures. 




Read the English version of this article: Acute Diarrhea in Young Children