Diarrhea – we have all experienced it, and it isn’t fun for anyone – adults, children or babies.
Most people think diarrhea is just watery stools, but it is actually diagnosed on the volume, or number of times, an individual poops during the day.
More than six stools per day qualifies as diarrhea, typically caused by one of the following: Virus, bacteria, mass consumption of fruit or fruit juices, and drinking liquids while not eating enough solid food.
Understanding diarrhea and how it happens is important. Infections affect the stomach and small intestine. An infection in the stomach causes a person to vomit, while an infection in the small intestine causes diarrhea.
When the body absorbs fluid, that happens in the small intestine. When an infection has irritated the lining of the intestine, the fluid does not get absorbed the way it should, which leads to diarrhea.
Most often, diarrhea is caused by a virus, which typically lasts three to five days. That length of time is how long it takes for the small intestine to rebuild that lining that was infected by the virus.
For babies and children, the best advice to treat diarrhea is give fluids as often as you can.
If the baby is eating solid foods, offer foods that are slow to digest:
- Peanut butter (if the child is old enough).
If the child is still in diapers, begin coating his or her bottom with diaper cream at each diaper change. The thick layer of cream will serve as a barrier between the stool and the skin and will hopefully prevent a diaper rash.
Typically, diarrhea is irritating but not life-threatening, however, there are two signs to look for to determine if a case of diarrhea needs to be discussed with a physician:
- Red or black stools – this means there is blood in the stool and can indicate a much more serious bacterial problem, like salmonella or shigella.
- More than 20 stools a day – this excessive amount of diarrhea will likely result in dehydration.
The most important thing to always watch for in a baby or child with diarrhea is dehydration.
Here are a few signs of dehydration:
- Dry mouth
- Wrinkly lips
- Scarce urination
All of these dehydration symptoms should be taken seriously and could require IV fluids. If your child experiences any of these, contact your pediatrician.