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Diarrhoea in Children: Warning Signs You Should See A Doc

Diarrhoea in children is a lot more common than in adults. The reasons are aplenty. They have a weaker immune system which makes them more susceptible to viruses and infections. Exposure to unhygienic water, excess consumption of unregulated packaged foods, and sharing meals and toys with other kids can lead to viral gastroenteritis or food poisoning.

Diarrhoea among babies, infants and older children can also happen due to food allergies. Many children also tend to eat too fast. This can lead to poor digestion and stomach aches.

We caught up with Paediatric Consultant Dr Deva Kumar of Greenview Medical Hospital to talk about diarrhoea among babies, infants and children.

1) How Do I Know If My Child Has Diarrhoea?

Diarrhoea is used to explain loose watery stools. It’s a change in your child’s bowel movement—a change in consistency, frequency (more than three times a day) and uncontrollable urgency. However, in neonates (new borns), passing stool even 7-8 times a day is normal.

Diarrhoea may or may not be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Based on the reason for diarrhoea, which could be viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu), bacterial infection, sepsis, food poisoning, or anything else, diarrhoea may come with additional symptoms like fever, stomach cramps, dehydration, headaches, and low energy levels.

2) Can Diarrhoea Cause Dehydration? How Can This Be Treated?

One of the biggest causes for concern is the unexpected and rapid dehydration your child may face during diarrhoea. This effects a smaller percentage of children in urban areas compare to rural areas, where diarrhoea-related deaths are higher due to dehydration complications in India.

Prolonged bouts of diarrhoea in children and vomiting causes the body to lose more fluids than it take in. This can quickly escalate to loss of sodium and imbalance of electrolytes in the body and result in dehydration. Dehydration is particularly worrisome among children and elderly people who could lose consciousness. Your child may also experience

Be sure to administer fluids to your child by way of water, coconut water, electrolyte balancing fluids, popsicles, fresh lime water, butter milk, etc. Do take the child to the hospital if they continue to remain dehydrated. A saline IV drip may need to be administered to compensate for loss of fluids.

3) What Are The Warning Signs My Child Needs To See A Doctor For Diarrhoea?

There are many tell-tale signs that the problem is not going to go away on its own. Watch out for the following in your child:

  1. Child is extremely dehydrated (dry mouth, no tears when crying, irritable, has not urinated for more than six hours).

  2. High grade fever >102*C

  3. Blood in loose stools

  4. Heightened pain, stomach cramps and discomfort

  5. Refusal of feeds and liquids

Warning Signs In Infants (0-1yrs)

  1. Vomiting frequently for hours

  2. No urination in diaper for more than 6 hours

  3. Blood in loose stools

  4. Dry mouth, no tears

  5. Unusually sleepy, drowsy or unresponsive

  6. Refusing feeds and fluids

4) What Should I Feed My Child Suffering From Diarrhoea?

For infants, continue breast feeding.

For children, support them with plenty of fluids like water, oral rehydration solutions, butter milk, tender coconut water, juices (less sugary).

Also, move them to a rice-based diet. Combinations like curd-rice, dal-rice, sambar-rice, or khichdi is advisable.

Always remember that starchy food are better digested. So, cereals, grains, wheat bread, crackers, biscuits and pasta are all good option that will sit well with the stomach. Fruits like bananas and apples are good too.

A simple rule to remember is to follow the BRAT Diet (Banana, Rice, Applesauce and Toast). More carbohydrates (easy digestibility) are preferred in diet than fats and proteins.

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