Children with diarrhea may be at risk for dehydration, a dangerous condition resulting from fluid loss. Diarrhea can be caused by bacterial infections, parasites and other conditions, but it is most commonly caused by viral infections. In mild diarrhea, appropriately treating fluid loss helps reduce dehydration in children. Acute diarrhea is defined as the presence of 3 or more loose, watery stools within 24 hours. Diarrhea may be accompanied by cramping, abdominal pain, loss of appetite and loss of bowel control.
How to Treat
Mild diarrhea is treatable at home using oral rehydration solutions (Pedialyte or Gastrolyte or similar non-brand name products). Give the child frequent amounts of oral electrolyte solutions to help maintain hydration. Children can continue to eat a healthy diet but should avoid caffeine, high fiber foods, sugary foods and dairy products, as these may aggravate diarrhea. Medications used to stop diarrhea in adults may be dangerous for children and should not be used without a doctor's recommendation.
Severe diarrhea is indicated in children with fever higher than 102.2° Fahrenheit, persistent vomiting and change in mental status, such as irritability or lethargy. Signs of dehydration include sunken eyes, decreased tears, dry mucous membranes and decreased urination; these signs indicate a need for medical attention. Seek treatment for blood or pus in the stool or black, tarry stools. Dehydration can be deadly for a young child, so although mild cases of diarrhea can be treated at home, do consult a physician.