It is not unusual for a child to suffer from diarrhoea from time to time. This ailment often causes discomfort and interruptions to the daily schedule.
Knowing how to manage diarrhoea in kids is crucial for parents. This could spell the difference between effective home care and having to see your paediatrician.
Hydration and proper nutrition are two things that Abbott consultant Dr Chu Hui Ping, a paediatric gastroenterologist at the Raffles Medical Group, emphasises as things to really pay attention to during periods of diarrhoea in kids.
Addressing these needs properly, plus proper home care can prevent the illness from worsening. When treated properly, it does not last long and should not pose a serious health threat.
Check out our 10 commandments for parents when dealing with diarrhoea in kids in order to give your child the care he needs,
The 10 commandments of dealing with diarrhoea in kids
1. Thou shalt recognize the signs and symptoms of diarrhoea.
Diarrhoea can mean loose or watery stools or an increase in frequency of your child’s need to do a number two – twice the usual number of times for infants, and three or more instances of loose stools in older children.
Other symptoms include abdominal pain, cramps and bloating.
2. Thou shalt know the causes of diarrhoea.
In developed countries like Singapore, the most common causes of diarrhoea are viral infections. This can also be caused by allergic reactions to medicines such as antibiotics, food allergies, intolerance to food such as cow’s milk, and intestinal illnesses.
3. Thou shalt understand how prolonged diarrhoea affects the body.
Dr. Chu explains that severe or prolonged diarrhoea can cause what is known as secondary lactose intolerance. This happens when intestinal lining is damaged, making it unable to produce enough lactase, which the body needs in order to digest lactose or milk sugar.
A child who is suffering from secondary lactose intolerance due to diarrhoea may suffer from abdominal cramps, flatulence, and even continued diarrhoea if he continues to take cow’s milk.
4. Thou shalt change your child’s diaper and clean him up immediately after bowel movements.
Because of frequent defecation, your child’s bum could become sensitive. Cleaning him up immediately and changing his soiled diapers can help prevent irritation. Remember to wash with mild soap and use a diaper rash cream when needed.
5. Thou shalt give your child more than just water and diluted milk.
It is a common mistake to have your child consume nothing but water and overly diluted milk when he has diarrhoea. This can result in an insufficient intake of calories and increase the risk of low blood sugar or hypoglycaemia.
If your child has an appetite, go ahead and allow him to eat. It would help to go for a lactose-free diet to prevent further stomach irritation, as advised by Abbott’s paediatric consultant, Dr. Chu. For smaller children, feeding them a soy formula instead of cow’s milk has been shown to shorten the period of diarrhoea by up to two days.
6. Thou shalt feed your kid food that will harden his stools.
When choosing foods to prepare for your kid with diarrhoea, opt to go for a good combination of starchy complex carbohydrates, lean meats and vegetables.
Prioritise food that can bulk up the stools, like bananas, apples, toast, rice and potatoes.
7. Thou shalt keep your child well-hydrated.
Drinking a lot of fluids is the key to preventing dehydration during episodes of diarrhoea. This is especially true for small children who can become dehydrated rather quickly.
Remember, though, that when dealing with diarrhoea in kids, you should avoid giving sweetened beverages including fruit juices and sports drinks. These can further aggravate the condition by drawing more water into the intestines.
8. Thou shalt not give medication to your child unless this is prescribed by a doctor.
For toddlers and small children, avoid giving any over the counter medication unless this has been prescribed by a doctor.
9. Thou shall take your child to the doctor in extreme cases.
As important as it is to know how to treat diarrhoea in kids, it is also important to know when it’s time to call the doctor. You should make an appointment to see you paediatrician if you notice any of the following in your child:
- Severe or prolonged diarrhoea
- No urination for over three hours
- High fever, 39 degrees and up
- Dry mouth and cracked lips
- No tears when crying
- Unusual sleepiness and irritability
- Black or bloody stools
- Faster than normal heartbeat
- Sunken eyes or cheeks
10. Thou shalt take these precautions to prevent the spread of diarrhoea.
Because infections that cause diarrhoea in kids are contagious, there is a big chance that this can quickly spread to others. In order to prevent this, make sure that you and your child do the following:
- Wash your hands often using and antibacterial soap
- Use hand sanitiser or alcohol to clean your hands when washing is not possible
- Do not share utensils or cups
- Clean play surfaces and toys often
To learn more about dealing with diarrhoea in kids, check out this video and quiz from Abbott.
Resources and references:
- Dr Chu Hui Ping, Raffles Medical Group