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Parents, this is what you need to know about treating diarrhoea in children


Summers in India can be merciless, and many children may be impacted, since they enjoy spending time outdoors. If you are a parent, you have to be careful about your child’s health, as heat waves can lead to many health issues, including dehydration.

According to Dr Sumit Gupta, consultant — pediatrics at Manipal Hospital, Ghaziabad, diarrhoea is the frequent passing of loose stools, a way for the body to get rid of germs.

“Mostly, symptoms persist for three to five days. But, they may last longer in some cases. Some children may experience blood or mucus in stools along with infections. Severe diarrhoea symptoms include dehydration — a significant loss of water and salt from the body. A breastfed baby passing frequent stools, however, is not characterised as diarrhoea,” he explains.

Dr Gupta adds that extreme dehydration in kids is a medical emergency. Dehydration symptoms to be mindful of include: weakness/lethargy, inactivity, infrequent or little passing of urine, dry mouth and tongue, and irritability. “Severe dehydration occurs if the child experiences rapid breathing, cold feet and hands, drowsiness, low urine output,” he states.

The doctor says children recover from mild diarrhoea symptoms in a few days, since their immune system can clear out the infection. “It is important to ensure the child consumes plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, and restore fluid loss caused by vomiting and repeated loose stools. The child should avoid fruit juices and carbonated beverages.”

Dr Gupta mentions that babies under the age of six months experience increased risk of dehydration. “However, breastfeeding is encouraged as normal. It is advised that the child consumes extra fluids (ORS) in between feeds, as rehydration drinks provide the ideal balance of water, sugar and salt. Small amounts of salt and sugar improve water absorption from the gut into the body. If rehydration drinks are unavailable, home-made salt/sugar mixtures can be prepared.”

Excessive salt can be dangerous for the child, and if they vomit, drinks should be given after 10-15 minutes, he adds.

When to seek medical help

If severe symptoms or complications appear, the child may require hospital admission. If the child is less than six months old and shows severe dehydration symptoms — continually vomiting, low oral intake, blood in vomit or stools and severe or worsened symptoms — they may need medical help.

What precautionary measures can be taken?

* Instilling a habit of washing hands regularly after the toilet, before eating and after playing outdoors, can minimise gut infection and diarrhoea risks.
* Proper food preparation and storage, alongside good hygiene can prevent diarrhoea.
* Breastfeeding lowers the chances of gut infections and diarrhoea compared to bottle-fed babies.
* Rotavirus causes infective diarrhoea in children. The available effective vaccine to counteract it should be given to kids below six months of age.

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