Causes of Diarrhea
29 June, 2022

Causes of Diarrhea and How to Deal with It

Causes of Diarrhea: Virtually all babies and younger children will suffer from the odd bout of “runny poo”.

Causes of Diarrhea and How to Deal with It

It’s normally nothing at all to worry about but here are some tips about the causes of diarrhoea and how to deal with it. Please remember though that we’re discussing babies and children here not adults and that this is not qualified medical advice.

What is diarrhoea?

Most of us will know this already from personal experience but it is a term used to describe the nature of faeces when they have become:

  • unusually fluid in texture and/or;
  • far more frequent than usual.

These two symptoms may arise independently of each other but are more commonly found together. They might also be accompanied by pain before or after defecating and the faecal matter often carries an unusually strong and offensive smell.

There might also be excessive wind and your baby or child might be visibly distressed and irritable.

What causes it?

Broadly speaking, many of the causes are identical to those found in adults, including:

  • bacteriological or viral infections;
  • foodstuffs consumed that the body isn’t handling well (e.g., allergies);
  • a side-effect of some medications;
  • some genetic conditions (rare as a percentage);
  • some other undiagnosed medical conditions (rare as a percentage but includes things like appendicitis);
  • changes in diet, environment or sometimes mood/trauma.

Is it serious?

In the vast majority of cases, a ‘touch of the runs’ isn’t serious for babies and younger children. In fact, it can be perfectly normal, as the child is exposed to different bugs and eating experiences over time.

It can become serious though if it leads to dehydration. Usually manifest by paleness, tiredness, sunken eye expressions and paradoxically, difficulty in keeping fluids down, dehydration justifies rapid contact with professional medical services and treatment.

When should the doctor be called?

Here, you will need to use parental judgement based upon knowing your child.

As a general position though, you should seek medical advice on diarrhoea if your child:

  • is under 6 months old and has had several runny poos in sequence;
  • is showing signs of dehydration;
  • has blood in their waste matter;
  • is running a temperature;
  • seems to have a constant pain in their tummy;
  • can’t keep down fluids or food (vomiting);
  • is very lethargic or keeps falling asleep;
  • has accompanying rashes or other skin blemishes;
  • at over 6 months, has been suffering for several days even if they seem otherwise fine.

What can I do to prevent it?

Even if your hygiene standards are impeccable, your children will pick up bugs and also be susceptible to reactions to new foodstuffs. Even so, you should:

  • ensure you think about hygiene when preparing foodstuffs and always wash your hands thoroughly before starting your food preparation;
  • never mix uncooked and cooked meat and fish products during preparation. Wash your hands between handling uncooked meat/fish and plates, cutlery and ready-to-serve foodstuffs;
  • introduce new foodstuffs into your children’s diet slowly and in smaller quantities to begin with;
  • avoid high content fat, salt and sugar products;
  • insist your children wash their hands before starting to eat (or do it yourself for babies).

Can I treat it?

The single most important thing when a baby or child has this condition is to keep their fluid levels up. Don’t force them to drink if they really don’t want to or you’ll just get the vomiting reaction but do try to gently check they’re drinking plenty.

Do not give your child anti-diarrhea medications unless you have discussed the position very clearly with a pharmacist or doctor in advance.

You should also try to avoid foodstuffs that are unfamiliar and go for good basic items, cutting out sweeties and treats until they’re better.

Consult your doctor sooner rather than later if any of the conditions mentioned earlier are evidenced.

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