Diarrhea

Dr. Parang Mehta, MD.

If your baby passes more than her normal number of stools, and the stools are liquid, it's diarrhea.

If your baby passes a formed motion or two after every feed, and is growing and gaining weight normally, it isn't diarrhea.

Diarrhea can be deadly.  It is one of the major killer diseases of children around the world, especially where health care facilities are poor.  The passage of many liquid stools depletes the body of water, sodium, potassium, and many other essential elements.  The water depletion (known as dehydration), when severe, can cause collapse of the blood circulation and death.

What Causes Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is commonly caused by infections.  Children get these infections in water, food, and other things that they put in the mouth.  Diarrhea can also be caused a variety of other disorders, such as those of digestion, the endocrine system, and nervous system.  Some drugs, especially antibiotics, can cause diarrhea.

Most infective diarrhea in children is due to viruses.  Some diarrhea is caused by bacteria.  Other causes include fungi, parasites, and drugs.  Bottle feeding with inadequately sterilised bottles is a frequent reason for diarrhea.  Breast fed babies rarely get diarrhea.  Not only is breast feeding clean and hygienic, breast milk itself contains anti infective substances.  

Care of the child with diarrhea

What does a child need during diarrhea? Nourishment is important.  Continue feeding the diet she is used to, in small, frequent, meals if necessary.  diarrhea is associated with reduced digestion, and a child needs, more, not less, food.  Food will not worsen the diarrhea, but will improve the nutrition and general well being of the child.

Water is very important.  If the stools are profuse and frequent, dehydration is a real danger. Only plain water is not good, alternate with fruit juices, coconut water, buttermilk, etc.  Boiled water with sugar and salt is helpful.  You can also use the World Health Organisation formula Oral Rehydration Solution sachets available at medical stores.  Sometimes the diarrhea is so severe that the child becomes dull and disinterested, stops passing urine, and refuses all food and drink.   This is an emergency.  Take the child to your doctor or a hospital immediately, no matter what time it is.   She may need admission for a day or two for intravenous therapy and tests.  

Never buy diarrhea stopping pills from medical stores.  These usually act by paralysing the gut, and are dangerous.  Most diarrhea is self limiting and mild, and does not need drug therapy. However, every episode of diarrhea has the potential to be serious, and this disease should never be taken lightly.

Last Revision: February 16, 2016

Danger Signs in Diarrhea

Food and Diarrhea

Myths abound about the role of food and drink in diarrhea.  Many people believe that certain foods cause diarrhea, to the great disadvantage of their children, who are then deprived of that food item.

The fact is, most diarrhea is infective.  Food does act as a carrier for infection, if it is not prepared and stored hygienically.  Very few foods actually cause diarrhea in normal children.  

Some children suffer from a malabsorption syndrome -- an inability to digest certain types of nutrients.  These children may have loose motions when fed those substances, but these disorders are rare.

Contrary to popular belief, food during diarrhea doesn't harm the child.  Starvation won't cure diarrhoea, and feeding won't make it worse.  As with any illness, a child needs nutrition during an episode of diarrhea, so withholding food is not good.

Is milk harmful? Some types of diarrhea are associated with lactose intolerance.  Lactose is a carbohydrate (sugar) found in milk, and some children are unable to digest it during and after an episode of diarrhea.  It doesn't happen very often, however, so it is not recommended to stop milk for all chldren with diarrhea.

Contact Information

Dr.  Parang Mehta,
Mehta Childcare,
Opposite Putli, Sagrampura,
Surat, India.        Tel: +91 9429486624.
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