The 10 Must-Knows on Managing Diarrhoea in Children

There are four common paediatric issues and concerns faced by parents and diarrhoea is one of them. Follow the first in a monthly video series featuring expert answers to commonly asked questions from parents. Find out how you can win $4,000 worth of prizes.

It is not unusual for a child to suffer from diarrhoea from time to time. This ailment often causes discomfort and interruptions to their daily routine.

We look into the topic on the Management of Diarrhoea, the first in a series of four education videos supported by an unrestricted education grant from Abbott, the leader in paediatric nutrition.

Knowing how to manage a common paediatric issue like diarrhoea is crucial for parents. Dr Chu Hui Ping, a paediatric gastroenterologist at the Raffles Children’s Centre, Raffles Hospital, answers commonly asked questions from parents. This is summarized and supplemented below in our 10 Must-Knows for parents in managing their child’s diarrhoea.

The 10 Must-Knows on Managing Diarrhoea in Children

1. 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. Common causes of diarrhoea.
In developed countries like Singapore, the most common cause of diarrhoea is infection. Dr Chu also mentioned, other causes like allergic reactions to medicines such as antibiotics, food allergies, intolerance to food such as cow’s milk, and intestinal illnesses.

Find out what the other 10 must-knows of managing diarrhoea in children, and how you can win $4,000 worth of prizes, on the next page…

3. What happens in the gut during diarrhoea.
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 they continue to take cow’s milk.

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Be sure to clean up your child well after he uses the toilet

4. Manage your child’s diet, hydrate well and go on a lactose free diet
You can help manage mild cases of diarrhoea by ensuring adequate fluid intake and providing a lactose-free diet. This prevents further stomach irritation, as advised by paediatrician Dr. Chu. Giving your child a soy formula (which is lactose free) instead of cow’s milk has been shown to shorten the period of acute diarrhoea by up to two days.

5. Avoid common feeding mistakes.
Dr. Chu shares that parents make the common mistake of giving their child nothing but water or extremely diluted milk when they have diarrhoea. This can result in an insufficient intake of calories and increase the risk of low blood sugar or hypoglycaemia. Another common mistake is giving your child sweetened beverages, including fruit juices and sports drinks. These can further aggravate the condition as the high sugar level draws more water into the intestines.

6. Feed food that facilitate hardening of stools.
When choosing foods to prepare for your child 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.

Find out what the other 10 must-knows of managing diarrhoea in children, and how you can win $4,000 worth of prizes, on the next page…

7. Understand the danger signs of diarrhoea.
With dehydration, diarrhoea can become dangerous, as there are also other associated complications such as salt imbalance and low sugar level. 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.

It is important to make sure that children with diarrhoea replenish fluids lost by drinking more than the usual amount of water and lactose-free milk

It is important to make sure that children with diarrhoea replenish fluids lost by drinking more than the usual amount of water and lactose-free milk

8. Do 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. Know when to consult your doctor.

As important as it is to know how to treat diarrhoea in children, it is also important to know when it’s time to call the doctor. You should make an appointment to see your paediatrician if you notice any of the following in your child:

  • Severe or prolonged diarrhoea
  • Decreased urine output
  • 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
Diarrhoea, when caused by a virus, can easily spread from one child to another.

Diarrhoea, when caused by a virus, can easily spread from one child to another.

10. Take precautions to prevent the spread of diarrhoea.

Because infections that cause diarrhoea in children 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 sanitizer or alcohol to clean your hands when washing is not possible
  • Do not share utensils or cups
  • Clean play surfaces and toys often

In addition to these 10 Must-Knows on Managing Diarrhoea in Children, Dr. Chu tells us that there are no long term health concerns on the usage of soy formula after your child’s diarrhoea has passed. In fact, Soy formulas are nutritionally complete, supporting your child’s normal growth and development.

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About Dr Chu Hui Ping

Dr Chu Hui Ping is a Paediatrician at Raffles Hospital with a special interest in paediatric gastroenterology. She was awarded the MOH HMDP award in 2010 and did her subspecialty training in paediatric gastroenterology and nutrition in Great Ormond Street Hospital and paediatric hepatology in Kings’ College Hospital in London.

Prior to joining Raffles Hospital, Dr Chu had been practicing at KKH as a Consultant in Paediatric Medicine as well as a Specialist in Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition service. Her main areas of interests are recurrent abdominal pain, constipation, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease and feeding issues.

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