Diarrhea from a viral infection usually lasts several days to 2 weeks, regardless of the type of treatment. Acute watery Diarrhea (Acute Gastroenteritis)
Diarrhea is the sudden increase in the frequency and looseness of stools. Mild diarrhea is the passage of a few loose or mushy stools. Severe diarrhea is the passage of many watery stools. The best indicator of the severity of the diarrhea is its frequency.
The main complication of diarrhea is dehydration from the loss of too much body fluid. Symptoms of dehydration are a dry mouth, the absence of tears, infrequent urination (for example, none in 12 hours), and darker, concentrated urine. The main goal of diarrhea treatment is to prevent dehydration.
Diarrhea from a viral infection usually lasts several days to 2 weeks, regardless of the type of treatment. The main goal of treatment is to prevent dehydration. Your child needs to drink enough fluids to replace the fluids lost in diarrhea. Don’t expect a quick return to solid stools.
What all can be given during Diarrhea?
Increased fluids and dietary changes are the main treatment for diarrhea.
Frequent, watery diarrhea
Encourage your child to drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration. Any fluid with both salt and sugar given inadequate amount is fine but we need to avoid only sugary drinks like juices etc. Salt helps in better absorption into the gut. Milk and water are both fine. However, if your child refuses solids, give your child just milk, rather than water. Offer short and frequent meals.
ORS (roughly 10 ml/kg per stool ) or simply as much as possible. Encourage the child and offer ORS after every motion.
Avoid fruit juices, because they all make diarrhea worse.
- Table foods
Keep giving your child table foods while he has diarrhea. The choice of food is important. Banana, curd, dalia, khichri, dal and rice , nimbu pani , sikangi etc. Starchy foods are digested best. Examples of such foods are dried cereals, grains, bread, crackers, rice, pasta, and mashed potatoes. Soft-boiled eggs and yogurt are easily digested and provide some protein.
How long will it last?
Mild diarrhea (loose stools)
Follow a regular diet with a few simple changes:
- Eat more foods containing starch. Starchy foods are easily digested during diarrhea. Examples are cereal, bread, crackers, rice, mashed potatoes, and pasta.
- Drink extra water. Avoid all fruit juices and carbonated drinks.
- Milk and milk products are fine.
- Avoid beans or any other foods that cause loose stools
What is the treatment and precautions?
There is no effective, safe drug for diarrhea. Extra fluids and diet therapy work best.
WHO recommends only 2 things: ORS and Zinc.
- Zinc: 20mg/kg once a day for 14 days for children more than 6 months.
- If you are breastfeeding, then keep breastfeeding on demand,
Probiotics contain healthy bacteria (lactobacilli) that can replace unhealthy ones.
Yogurt is the easiest source of probiotics. Give your child 2 to 6 ounces (60 to 180 ml) of yogurt twice daily.
Probiotic supplements in granules, tablets, or capsules are also available in health food stores.
- Common mistakes
Fruit juices, cold aerated drinks, glucose water, Kool-Aid, and soda pop, should be avoided because they contain no salt and too much sugar. Use only the fluids suggested here.
Fruit juices (especially apple and grape) should be avoided because they are too concentrated and make diarrhea worse.
Clear fluids alone should be used for only 4 to 6 hours because the body needs more calories than clear fluids can provide. Milk is a good well-balanced fluid for diarrhea.
The most dangerous myth is that the intestine should be “put to rest.” Restricting fluids can cause dehydration.
Diarrhea can be very contagious. Always wash your hands after changing diapers or using the toilet. This is crucial for keeping everyone in the family from getting diarrhea.
- Diaper rash from diarrhea
The skin near your child’s anus can become irritated by diarrhea. Wash the area near the anus after each motion. Cleaning should be done softly and by patting only (do not rub with pressure). Then protect it with a thick layer of petroleum jelly or another ointment (Zinc based). This protection is especially needed during the night and during naps. Changing the diaper quickly after stools also helps.
- Overflow diarrhea in a child not toilet-trained
For children in diapers, diarrhea can be a mess. Place a cotton washcloth inside the diaper to trap some of the more watery stools. Use diapers with snug leg bands or cover the diapers with a pair of plastic pants. Wash your child under running water in the bathtub.
- Vomiting with diarrhea
If your child has vomited more than twice, follow your doctor’s recommended treatment for vomiting instead of this treatment for diarrhea until your child has gone 8 hours without vomiting.
When should I call my child’s doctor (Pediatrician)?
Call IMMEDIATELY if:
- There are signs of dehydration (no urine in more than 10-12 hours, very dry mouth, no tears).
- Any blood appears in diarrhea.
- The diarrhea is severe (more than 8 stools in the last 8 hours).
- The diarrhea is watery AND your child also vomits repeatedly.
- Your child starts acting very sick.
- Oral intake is almost zero i.e. child not even taking plain water
What should parents avoid giving their children if they have diarrhea or are vomiting?
Do not give your child sugary drinks, such as fruit juice or sweetened fruit drinks, carbonated drinks, sweetened tea, broth, or rice water. These have the wrong amounts of water, salts, and sugar. They can also make your child’s diarrhea worse.
Talk to your doctor before giving over-the-counter medications to stop diarrhea. If your child’s diarrhea is very serious, do not offer plain water. Drinking only water may lead to low blood sugar or low sodium levels in your child’s blood.
For any other queries, feel free to contact us at MAYA CLINIC or talk to your child specialist.
Dr Rahul Varma