Don't Ignore Diarrhea in Children

The symptoms of diarrhea include frequent, loose, and watery feces. Many elements, such as infections, dietary intolerances, drugs, and other underlying medical issues, can cause it. While diarrhea is often a minor inconvenience, it can be a serious problem for young children, who are more susceptible to dehydration and other complications. It is essential to address diarrhea in children promptly to avoid potentially serious health consequences. This paper will provide an overview of the causes, symptoms, treatment, prevention, and complications of diarrhea in children to highlight the importance of not ignoring this condition.

Causes of Diarrhea in Children

There are several potential causes of diarrhea in children. The most common reasons are viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections, but other factors such as food intolerances, medications, and underlying health conditions can also contribute to diarrhea.

  • Viral Infections − Viruses such as rotavirus, adenovirus, norovirus, and astrovirus are the most common cause of diarrhea in children. These highly contagious viruses can be transmitted through contact with contaminated surfaces or infected individuals. During 1-3 days of exposure, symptoms like diarrhea, fever, vomiting, and cramping typically appear. Most viral infections are self-limited and resolve within a few days without specific treatment. However, severe cases may require hospitalization and supportive care.

  • Bacterial Infections − Bacterial infections such as Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter, and Escherichia coli (E. Coli) can cause diarrhea in children. These bacteria can be found in contaminated food, water, or feces. Symptoms of bacterial infections can include diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and vomiting. Antibiotics are often used to treat bacterial infections; hospitalization may be necessary in severe cases.

  • Parasitic Infections − Children's diarrhea can be brought on by parasites such as Entamoeba histolytica, Cryptosporidium, and Giardia. These parasites can be found in contaminated water, food, or feces. Symptoms can include diarrhea, abdominal pain, and cramps. Treatment for parasitic infections typically involves using antiparasitic medications, and supportive care may also be necessary.

  • Food Intolerances − Certain foods can trigger diarrhea in children who are sensitive or intolerant to them. Lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, and fructose intolerance are common food intolerances. Symptoms can include diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, and gas. Treatment involves identifying and avoiding the offending food or ingredient.

  • Medications − Certain medications can also cause diarrhea in children. Antibiotics, for example, can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria, leading to diarrhea. Medications that can cause diarrhea include laxatives, antacids, and chemotherapy. Treatment involves either discontinuing the medication or adjusting the dose.

Symptoms of Diarrhea

  • Loose, watery stools − One of the most common signs of diarrhea in children is loose, watery stools. The frequency of bowel movements can also increase.

  • Abdominal pain and cramps − Children may experience abdominal pain and cramps due to the irritation caused by frequent bowel movements.

  • Dehydration − Dehydration is a serious complication that can occur if a child loses too much fluid through diarrhea. Signs of dehydration include dry mouth, decreased urine output, and lethargy.

  • Fever − Children with diarrhea may also have a fever, which is usually low-grade but can be higher in severe cases.

  • Blood in stools − In some cases, blood may be visible in the stool, which can indicate a more serious underlying condition.

  • Loss of appetite − Children with diarrhea may experience a loss of appetite and may not want to eat or drink.

  • Nausea and vomiting − Children with diarrhea may also experience nausea and vomiting, which can exacerbate dehydration.

  • Weight loss − If diarrhea persists for an extended period, children may experience weight loss due to the loss of fluids and nutrients.

It is important to monitor children with diarrhea closely and seek medical attention if any of these symptoms persist or worsen. If a child is showing signs of dehydration, seek medical attention immediately. Prompt treatment can help prevent

Treatment for Diarrhea in Children

Diarrhea is a common problem among children, and it is important to take steps to treat it to prevent dehydration and other complications. Here are some treatment options for diarrhea in children −

  • Rehydration − The most important step in treating children's diarrhea is preventing dehydration. Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids such as water, clear broth, or oral rehydration solutions (ORS). ORS is a specially formulated mixture of water, salts, and sugars that helps replenish fluids and electrolytes lost due to diarrhea. You can buy ORS packets from a pharmacy or make your own by correctly mixing water, salt, and sugar.

  • Rest − Make sure your child gets plenty of rest during this time. Avoid activities that may cause fatigue or stress.

  • Offer your child a bland diet that is easy to digest, such as bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast (BRAT diet). Avoid fatty, spicy, or greasy foods, as they may irritate the digestive system.

  • Probiotics − Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help restore the balance of gut flora. They may help treat diarrhea caused by a viral or bacterial infection. You can find probiotics in supplement form or foods such as yogurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables.

  • Medications − Avoid giving your child over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medicines unless prescribed by a doctor. These medications may have side effects and mask symptoms of a more serious illness.

If your child’s diarrhea persists for more than a few days, or if they have symptoms such as high fever, severe abdominal pain, bloody stools, or dehydration, seek medical attention immediately.

Prevention of Diarrhea in Children

  • Hand washing − Encourage children to wash their hands regularly, especially before eating or using the bathroom.

  • Clean water − Make sure your child's water is clean and safe. Boil or purify water if necessary.

  • Proper sanitation − Ensure that the area where your child eats and plays is clean and hygienic.

  • Breastfeeding − Breast milk provides essential nutrients and antibodies to help prevent infant diarrhea.

  • Vaccination − Ensure your child is current on their vaccinations, as some vaccines can help prevent diarrhea caused by certain bacteria and viruses.

  • Proper food preparation − Ensure your child's food is cooked properly and stored safely to avoid contamination.

  • Avoidance of contaminated food and water − Avoid giving your child uncooked or undercooked meat, fish, or poultry. Also, avoid giving them unpasteurized dairy products or water from questionable sources.

  • Personal hygiene − Teach your child to cover their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze, and to avoid touching their face, especially their mouth and eyes.

Following these preventative measures can significantly reduce the chances of your child getting diarrhea and keep them healthy and happy. If your child does develop diarrhea, make sure to consult a doctor for proper treatment and care.


Children's diarrhoea can be brought on by a number of things, such as bacterial, viral, and parasite diseases, food intolerances, and drugs. It's critical to determine the underlying cause of diarrhoea in order to guarantee proper care and avoid any consequences. Parents and caregivers should seek medical attention if a child experiences diarrhea accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, dehydration, or blood in the stool.

Updated on: 12-Apr-2023


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