Addressing Diarrhea in Children - Health Education - DesiMD Healthcare - India
Health Education

Addressing Diarrhea in Children

Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi profile Authored by Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi on 4 Jul 2014 - 15:17.

Child - Diarrhea

Of all the health problems of an infant, diarrhea is the most worrying condition baffling a mother. Though dangerous in both infants and children, diarrhea should be viewed with more caution in infants. What starts with a couple of loose motions may end up with continued frequency leading to massive dehydration, coma and death without even giving time for action. Diarrhea in infants needs more care than necessary. Any lapse or complacency may have disastrous implications.

It is important to maintain hydration. Let the child pass stools several times, but as long as proper hydration is maintained and dehydration is avoided, one can tackle the frequency of motions leisurely. The lesson therefore, is prompt maintenance of hydration.

What is Diarrhea?

It means frequency of loose stools other than what a child is normally used to. The stools may be watery, semisolid or even large in quantity though normal in consistency. The stools may be sticky and gummy with or without blood. They may come with force like a pump and on occasions the child just passes watery stools without formation of any stool material.

Whatever may be the nature of stools passed, a few large quantities of motions are sufficient to cause dehydration than small quantities of frequent motion. Diarrhea in infants and children should never be viewed lightly. It is one of the major causes of infant mortality.

What was a playful child full of activity may suddenly become listless dull and apathetic. This is a warning signal of severe dehydration. If not recognized and corrected immediately the child becomes drowsy and may go into coma.

What is Dehydration?

It is the loss of body fluids vital for the metabolic activity and the fluids so lost contain vital electrolytes namely sodium / potassium / chlorides. The need of the hour is to replace the fluids lost, preferably monitoring the loss and replacement of the particular electrolyte. This process is called rehydration and correcting electrolyte imbalance. Electrolyte imbalance is the main cause of mortality.

What causes Diarrhea in children?

The reasons are many, mainly viral/ bacterial and worm infestations. Rotavirus is the main culprit for viral diarrhea. A gram-negative bacterium is the main culprit for bacterial variety. Amebic and Giardial infection is the cause for the other variety.

Why do we need to wait for a particular variety to set in and then bother about tackling it at the risk of a child's life?

In other words prevention is the need of the hour.

  • Bottle feeding of a child, old enough to take food on his own with a spoon, is the main cause for infection. The mother claims she boils the bottles and takes all the precautions. This is not enough. The feeding bottle is an ideal vehicle needed for bacteria to grow. The bottle is warm and closed almost mimicking a Petri dish where we grow organisms for studying cultures and sensitivity. But our Indian mothers don’t accept this and continue using feeding bottles though the child is capable of eating in a plate with a spoon.
  • Prevent Flies - Flies carry bacteria to the food or milk given to the child. To prevent flies, do not throw trash here and there but put it in a trashcan. Improper disposal of human waste mainly the child’s diapers attract flies. Lack of cleanliness is the main cause for flies to harbor.
  • Improperly boiled milk if given to a child, may lead to bacterial infections including Tuberculous enteritis, which involves the intestines causing intractable diarrhea. Keep a constant eye on the child. The child walking or crawling around with bare feet is the main cause for entry of worms through the feet and the human host harbors them causing diarrhea. The best thing to be done is to cover the feet with socks if you can afford!

There are hundreds of such causes and the child can be an unfortunate and innocent victim of a killer disease called Diarrhea.

Symptoms of Diarrhea: All said and done let us say the child has Diarrhea despite our best efforts to avoid this. In such cases we can at least save the child from a disaster if only we remember certain. Some warning symptoms of an impending dehydration are:

  • The first warning sign is irritability. An otherwise playful child gets irritable even on touch.
  • The child licks his own lips and tries to quench his thirst, which means the child is moderately dehydrated.
  • If you give the child some liquids to drink he refuses but readily accepts plain water which is indicative of dehydration.
  • If the child becomes listless and , it is a warning about an impending electrolyte imbalance and warrants aggressive methods of treatment through Intravenous Fluid replacement.
  • If you still neglect, the child may go into a stage of irreversible Hypovolemic shock.
  • The first two symptoms are sufficient warnings that the child needs rehydration either oral or through intravenous drips.
  • The classical signs of loss of skin elasticity and wrinkles on pinching abdominal skin and also sunken eyes are late manifestations of a neglected case.

There are hundreds of causes for Diarrhea in children but suffices to mention the important causes, their prevention and how soon you should identify an underlying complication and take corrective steps. Any delay or simple callousness may lead to loss of a precious life of an innocent victim of diarrhea.

Diarrhea is a big subject but this article is simplified to give only the salient features in a simple and understandable language. Every mother should know and remember this. However don't either try to treat a child yourself or wait for the warning signs. The prognosis or what we call the outcome of Diarrhea attack is most unpredictable and may even kill a child if neglected.

The lesson we need to learn , not to underestimate Diarrhea.

*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.