How to Treat Diarrhea in Infants and Children
When he was one year old, our son got a severe case of diarrhea that lasted for three days. We ended up going to the emergency room because he became completely dehydrated, and it was a painful experience. He completely recovered after the doctors gave him intravenous fluids, but we were in the hospital for two days.
It is very hard to find a vein for injecting the IV fluids when the person is dehydrated and it was heart breaking to watch the nurses search for a vein. We learned a lot during that experience and I wrote this article as a guide for how to treat diarrhea in infants and children.
Some babies may become lactose intolerant and in these cases it is advisable to avoid any milk products. However, you should consult with your pediatrician before deciding to stop breastfeeding or to stop feeding milk. It is very important to feed the baby with fluids like Pedialyte.
When Diarrhea is Dangerous
Diarrhea is characterized by the appearance of watery and loose stools more than three times in 24 hours.
The causes of infant diarrhea vary from teething, to gastrointestinal infections to antibiotics. In most cases, it will go away on its own. However, diarrhea can lead to dehydration which is a serious problem. Infants in particular can become dehydrated in a short period of time. Using oral rehydration solutions like pedialyte can help prevent dehydration.
One common cause of diarrhea in infants is the stomach flu (known medically as viral gastroenteritis). Many different viruses can cause stomach flu in infants. The most common types are Rotavirus, Adenovirus, Astrovirus.
Call your pediatrician right away if:
1. An infant under three or four months old has diarrhea.
2. The condition persists in infants for three days or longer.
3. Stools contain blood or pus.
4. Your baby has fever and is vomiting.
5. Your baby has not urinated in over six hours.
Signs of Dehydration
Dehydration in babies is a serious problem and you should always make sure your baby is getting enough fluids.
Possible Causes of Infant Diarrhea
1. Bacterial infections from contaminated food and water. Common bacteria include Salmonella, Escherichia coli (E.coli), and Campylobacter.
2. Many viruses cause infant diarrhea. Rotavirus is the most common cause of acute diarrhea in babies and young children. It usually affects children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years. When children have rotavirus, their stools contain large numbers of germs. Rotavirus can spread easily. It could spread by coming in contact with an infected diaper and not washing hands properly afterward or by touching a toy that has germs on it.
3. Parasites can enter the body through foods and water and settle in the digestive system. Parasites that cause infant diarrhea include Giardia lamblia, Cryptosporidium, and Entamoeba histolytica.
4. Reaction to medicines: Antibiotics, blood pressure medications, antacids containing magnesium, and cancer drugs can cause infant diarrhea.
5. Bowel disorders: Infant diarrhea can be a symptom of irritable bowel syndrome or other gastrointestinal issues.
6. Intestinal diseases like Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and celiac disease often lead to diarrhea.
7. Teething and change in mother's diet if the baby is breastfed.
Treatment of Infant Diarrhea
Treatment for infant diarrhea is to replenish fluids to prevent dehydration. You can give your baby oral rehydration solution (ORS) to replace lost fluids. The following diet plan can also help your baby recover.
- Strict oral rehydration solution like every 4-6 hours. This is the most important step. Do not let your baby dehydrate. Some suggest it is very important to continue breastfeeding. Watch carefully how the baby reacts to milk and decide whether to temporarily stop feeding milk. Sometimes nothing can stay in the stomach. Pedialyte
- Bland foods. If you have started giving solids to your baby, feed her applesauce, strained banana, saltines, strained carrots, strained squash, mashed potatoes(no additives), rice cereal and oatmeal. You can also feed her toast, crackers, breads, pretzels, rice, mashed potatoes (no additives), noodles (no additives), bananas, apple sauce, carrots, squash, rice krispies, cheerios, oatmeal and yogurt with active cultures.
- No milk products. Some babies may become lactose intolerant during this time, so consult your pediatrician.
- No oils or butter.
- No spicy foods or sauces until the diarrhea subsides.
Note: You should always consult with your child's doctor before starting any kind of medication or if you have any doubts.
Check out the video below for more information about how to detect dehydration.