Diarrhea is a common condition in children. This could usually start as mild fever followed by the passage of loose and watery stool. There might also be vomiting in some babies. Are you worried and wondering how to stop diarrhea in babies and children fast? If your baby develops diarrhea, there is no need to panic. Did you know that most cases of diarrhea in babies and children can be managed at home? So if your child has diarrhea, stay calm and do not panic. Here is all that you need to know to care for your baby at home.
What causes diarrhea and can we prevent it?
Diarrhea is caused by some germ infection in your child’s intestines which causes the intestine to secrete lots of intestinal juices. This makes the stool soft or watery and your baby has to pass stool several times. These germs usually get entry into your child’s stomach by unclean water, unclean hands, or food contaminated by flies and cockroaches.
Hygiene is the key!
We can decrease the risk of diarrhea by following these basic steps in our everyday life
- Good sanitation and personal hygiene. Keep your baby’s nails short and always wash hands before eating food.
- Use clean and safe drinking water
- Food should be prepared in a hygienic way. Also, store them carefully and keep them covered so that flies and cockroaches cannot contaminate them.
- Exclusively breastfeeding until 6 months of age will protect your baby from diarrhea.
A vaccine against diarrhea is available
Rotavirus infection is a common cause of acute watery diarrhea in babies. The good news is that there is a vaccine and if your baby is young he/she could benefit from it. It decreases the chances of getting diarrhea in babies and children, particularly the severe form; ones that could lead to hospitalization or death. Rotavirus vaccine is ideally started at 6 weeks of age, consisting of either a 2 dose or a 3 dose schedule which is given 4 weeks apart. The vaccine must be completed within 6 months.
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How to stop diarrhea in babies fast?
Most of the episodes of diarrhea in children are caused by viruses or some toxin-producing bacteria and your child’s body is usually able to get rid of it by itself in 5-7 days’ time. Unfortunately, there is no magic potion that can stop diarrhea in babies quickly. The most accepted treatment of diarrhea in a child is to give Zinc syrup and Oral rehydration Salts solutions (ORS). ORS replenishes all the water and electrolyte your baby loses during diarrhea and prevents him/or her from getting dehydrated. Zinc boosts immunity and helps the intestine heal faster.
How to give ORS to your baby?
It is practically challenging to give Oral rehydration salts (ORS) solutions to small children especially when they are refusing to accept feeds or when they have vomiting. Here is how you should prepare an ORS solution and offer it to your child with diarrhea.
ORS packets come in a standard packet to be mixed in 1 liter of water and smaller packets to be mixed in 200 ml of water. Read the instruction on the packet carefully and do not mix up! Prepare ORS in a clean container using clean drinking water. Thereafter-
- Give a teaspoonful every 2-3 min for a child under 2 years
- For an older child, give frequent sips from a cup.
- If your child vomits, wait for 10 mins, then give the solution more slowly
What are the Home Available Fluids that can be given to stop diarrhea in Babies and Children?
The idea of Oral Rehydration Therapy is to replace the ongoing loss of fluid and electrolytes in the watery stool. The most ideal and preferred fluid during diarrhea is the ORS which contains the right amount of sodium, glucose, potassium, and citrate. We can also prepare simple fluids at home with home available provisions. But please do keep in mind that these Home Available Fluids should not be used as a replacement for ORS.
Preferable Home Available Fluids that can be given are fluids that contain salt. This includes salted rice water or salted yogurt drink, vegetable or chicken soup with salt, etc
Some fluids that do not contain salt like plain clean water, water in which cereal has been cooked (e.g., unsalted rice water), unsalted soup, yogurt drinks without salt, green coconut water, weak unsweetened tea, unsweetened fresh fruit juice are acceptable
However, Some of the unsuitable home available fluids are best avoided during diarrhea. This includes commercial carbonated beverages, commercial fruit juices, sweetened tea.
Do antidiarrhoeals and antibiotics help?
Remember these two things –
- Over the counter, antidiarrheals are no good and can actually harm your child
- Your child does not require antibiotics for diarrhea unless there is blood in stools.
What food you can give to your child during diarrhea?
If you are still breastfeeding your baby, you should continue doing so. You may even breastfeed your baby more frequently during episodes of diarrhea.
Children who are having diarrhea can still absorb nutrients from food very well. They need the energy to fight the disease but may not have a good appetite. So, give optimally energy-dense food with the least bulk. So how do we prepare energy-dense food? You can prepare it by enriching your staple food with fat or oil and sugar e.g. Khichri with oil, rice with milk or curd and sugar, mashed banana with milk or curd, mashed potatoes with oil and lentils. Offer this food every 2-3 hours in small quantities.
Avoid food with high fiber content during an episode of diarrhea. e.g., coarse fruits, and vegetables.
When to take your child to a doctor?
Simple diarrhea can be managed at home by keeping the child hydrated adequately with ORS and Home Available Fluids as well as giving sensible food. But sometimes things would get worse and you may need to visit your doctor. Watch out for these signs and symptoms that will tell you that your baby might require medical attention.
Visit a doctor if any of the following happens.
- Diarrhea persists beyond 3 days
- There is an increase in volume or frequency of stools
- Repeated vomiting is making it difficult to give ORS
- Increasing thirst could be a sign of dehydration not addressed well enough at home
- If your infant is refusing to feed on the breast. This could indicate something serious.
- A mild fever may be there. However, if your child is running a high fever or blood in stools, you should consult your doctor.
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