Diarrhea is common among children – most children have three – five episodes of the disease yearly. Diarrheal disorders, i.e. infectious diarrheas, are responsible for a large proportion (18 percent) of childhood deaths. Globally, diarrhea ranks after pneumonia as the second leading cause of death, especially among children under five years of age.
Breast fed babies rarely get diarrhea. Not only is breastfeeding clean and hygienic, breast milk itself contains anti infective substances.
What Causes Diarrhea?
Diarrhea occurs when you have repeated, watery bowel movements. This is the reason why it is most commonly known as loose motions.
Diarrhea is usually the result of a gastrointestinal infection caused by pathogens such as bacteria, virus or other parasites. There are a number of ways in which your child – or you for that matter – can catch these germs. These include:
Contaminated food or water.
Direct contact with a person who is suffering from diarrhea.
Contact with germs left behind on surfaces, such as floors, walls, toys, or furniture.
These are some of the risk factors for diarrhea in children:
Lack of breast feeding
Poor food hygiene
Infections like measles
Apart from these, there are other causes of diarrhea such as changes in diet or use of antibiotics, but these are not infectious types of diarrhea.
Care of the child with diarrhea
Most of the episode of diarrhea can be managed at home with simple remedy.
What does a child need during diarrhea? Nourishment is important. Continue feeding the diet she is used to, in small, frequent, meals if necessary. diarrhea is associated with reduced digestion, and a child needs, more, not less, food. Food will not worsen the diarrhea, but will improve the nutrition and general well being of the child.
Water is very important. If the stools are profuse and frequent, dehydration is a real danger. Only plain water is not good, alternate with fruit juices, coconut water, buttermilk, thin dals, etc. Boiled water with sugar and salt is helpful. You can also use the World Health Organisation formula Oral Rehydration Solution sachets available at medical stores.
Sometimes the diarrhea is so severe that the child becomes dull and disinterested, stops passing urine, and refuses all food and drink. This is an emergency. Take the child to your doctor or a hospital immediately, no matter what time it is. She may need admission for a day or two for intravenous therapy and tests.
Never buy diarrhea stopping pills from medical stores. These usually act by paralysing the gut, and are dangerous. Most diarrhea is self limiting and mild, and does not need drug therapy. However, every episode of diarrhea has the potential to be serious, and should never be taken lightly.
Dehydration due to diarrhea is mostly responsible for mortality due to this illness. It is important for parents to be able to recognize symptoms of dehydration to treat it promptly and prevent complications. These are some of the signs of dehydration in your child:
Restlessness or irritability
Lethargy or inactivity
Dryness in the mouth with increased thirst
Cold hands and feet
You should call your doctor in the following cases:
If your child is younger than six months old and is suffering from the problem.
If the diarrhea persists or becomes more severe.
If the stools are bloody or have mucus.
If your child is running a high temperature (102°F or higher).
If the vomiting refuses to stop.
If your child refuses to eat or drink.
If your child shows symptoms of dehydration including sunken eye pockets, dry or cold skin, listlessness or fatigue, no urine or very little urine that is dark yellow, dry lips, fewer or no tears while crying.
How to prevent
Diarrhea, like many other infections, is an unavoidable part of growing up. All the same, taking some simple precautionary measures can help you to minimize the risks for your child.
- Breastfeed your child.it is not only clean and hygenic,it also contain antiffective substances.
Vaccinate for rotavirus. Vaccinating children below six months against rotavirus can protect them against this common diarrheal infection.
Make hand washing a habit. Children routinely pick up germs while playing. When they put their hands in their mouths, these germs enter their bodies and infect them. Regular washing, especially before eating, is the surest way to prevent these infections.
Guard against food and water contamination. Boil drinking water to make it safe for your children. Avoid food that is not prepared or stored in hygienic conditions. Also, scrupulously wash all raw foods such as fruits or vegetables.
Take precautions with pets. Help your children follow simple hygiene rules while playing with pets, such as washing hands afterwards.
Take care while traveling. Children are often more vulnerable to infections while traveling. Drinking only bottled water and avoiding food from suspicious sources may help to reduce the risk of infections