Loose Stools Among Infants: When To Consider It An Emergency

As a parent, you are always conscious of your child’s health and any unusual symptom can make you worried. Though diarrhea among infants is quite common due to various reasons, a little more frequency can trigger your alertness and make you restless. However, as a new parent, you must be aware of diarrhea, its warning signs, and the point at which it needs quick medical care.

Diarrhea in infants

Diarrhea is loose, watery stool bowel movements; it is a familiar health-related complaint observed in babies and young children. Kids are more vulnerable to suffering from diarrhea than adults.
Infant diarrhea can affect health drastically and in a few cases results in emergency situations. Mild conditions resolve on their own but severe cases need hospitalization.
Symptoms such as dehydration, being lethargic, or avoiding liquids and foods rings the bell for a doctor's visit. As children are more exposed to various bacteria, viruses, and germs, it is important that we take care of them and prevent them from getting sick.

Diarrhea causes

Diarrhea microbes spread easily, especially among kids. They usually spread quickly among young children who are too young to know the hygiene environment.

  • Virus (such as Rotavirus)
  • Bacteria (such as Salmonella)
  • Giardia (a parasite)
  • Rarely, cystic fibrosis
  • Diarrhea due to antibiotics or medications
  • Food poisoning
  • Cow’s milk allergy
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Teething in babies - As they tend to put anything in their mouth and expose themselves to diarrhea germs
  • Change in baby’s diet - few foods can be allergic to babies. A change in the mother's diet, if breastfeeding.
  • Dehydration is the main risk factor
  • Loose or runny stools do not result in dehydration
  • Continous, watery stools can result in dehydration

Diarrhea causes

  • Mild diarrhea: 3 or 5 times watery stools every day
  • Moderate: 6 or 9 times watery stools per day
  • Severe: Many times (more than 9-12 times) watery stools per day

Diarrhea Symptoms

Diarrhea Symptoms in Children are as follows -

  • Cramping
  • Swelling (bloating)
  • Belly or abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Bloody stools
  • Dehydration
  • Incontinence
  • Continous crying
  • Not eating

Dehydration due to diarrhea

Newborns and young kids under 3 years of age can get dehydrated and sick quickly. Loose watery stools remove water and other liquids from the body, thus leading to infant dehydration. Monitor the baby for the following signs and symptoms of dehydration, which include -

  • Crying with or no tears
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry skin
  • Paleness
  • Less wet diapers than usual
  • Constipation
  • Less active, weak
  • Less eating
  • Irritable
  • Sleepiness

If your child is suffering from the above diarrhea symptoms then consult a pediatric doctor.

When to call a doctor for medical assistance?

With small babies, you must not take enough risk. Contact your doctor if the child is having the below-given symptoms -

  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Loose watery stools more than 6-10 times per day
  • Blood or mucus in the poop
  • Not gaining weight
  • Weight loss

Diarrhea treatment

The treatment of diarrhea in children depends on the root cause of the health problem. Often baby diarrhea subsides on its own and no medical treatment is required.
Infant diarrhea treatment includes -

Antibiotic-related diarrhea : Your doctor may stop or change the antibiotic.
Constipation: If constipation is causing fecal incontinence, then it will be managed by a doctor or a pediatrician.
Dehydration: In case of infant dehydration you need to visit a hospital where the baby will get fluids through an IV.
Lactose intolerance or Coeliac disease: These health issues can be solved with dietary adjustments.
Giardia : This infection is treated with certain antibiotics.
Malabsorption : Treatment is based on the primary cause and includes replacing missing nutrients.
Gastroenteritis: Keep your child hydrated and replace any lost minerals and salts. This problem usually resolves without specific treatment.

Home care for an infant with diarrhea

  • Newborns should always be taken to the doctor.
  • Use oral rehydration solutions
  • Avoid giving your child undiluted drinks that contain more sugar, like sports drinks, lemonade, carbonated beverages, or spicy foods.
  • Prevent dehydration, keep baby hydrated
  • Change baby’s diaper regularly to prevent diaper rash
  • Take care that your baby or child rests.
  • Don't send them to daycare or school until the loose watery stools stop and the child is healthy again.
  • Do not give anti-diarrhoeal or anti-vomiting drugs to your child unless your doctor tells you to give them.

Don’t panic when your child gets diarrhea. Just be watchful and seek medical care when needed.

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