Your child has diarrhea if he is having more bowel movements than usual, and his stools are loose and more watery than usual. Your child may also have a fever, nausea, vomiting, pains in the stomach, cramps, blood and/or mucus in the stool, and may not want to eat. Diarrhea can be dangerous if it causes dehydration, which is a loss of body fluids (made up of water and salts). Signs of dehydration are less urination, lack of tears, sunken eyes, dry skin, mouth and tongue, sunken eyes and sunken fontanelle (soft spot on your baby’s head). Dehydration can be very dangerous, especially for babies and young children.
Diarrhea is most often caused by a virus. Sometimes it is caused by bacteria.
At the start of diarrhea in your baby, continue breastfeeding on demand. If you do not breastfeed, continue to offer your baby food and drink. Whether you breastfeed or not, offer an oral rehydration solution (ORS) (which you can get at drugstores), following this schedule:
For the first six hours
- For a child less than six months old, give 30 to 90 ml (1 to 3 oz.) of ORS every hour.
- For a child six to 24 months old, give 90 to 125 ml (3 to 4 oz.) of ORS every hour.
- For a child over two years old, give 125 ml to 250 ml (4 to 8 oz.) of ORS every hour.
If your child vomits, you may need to stop food and drink. Continue to give ORS, however, using a spoon. Give your child 15 ml (1 tbsp.) every 10 to 15 minutes until the vomiting stops. Then go back to the schedule above. If vomiting doesn’t stop after four to six hours, take your child to the hospital.
- From six to 24 hours, keep giving ORS until the diarrhea happens less often. When the vomiting happens less often, have your child drink small amounts of milk or formula often.
- After 24 to 48 hours, most children can eat and drink normally. It can take seven to 10 days for stools to return to the normal form.
The germs that cause diarrhea are spread easily from person to person, especially among children who haven’t learned to use the toilet. Wash your hands and your child’s hands well after changing a diaper and going to the toilet, and before preparing food and eating.
Call your child’s doctor if he has diarrhea and is younger than six months, if he has bloody or black stools, if he is still vomiting after four to six hours, if he has a temperature greater than 38.5oC (101.5oF), or if he has signs of dehydration.