Diarrhea is a common complaint in children of all age groups. However, it is also the cause behind malnutrition in children under five years of age and the second leading cause of death in children under five years of age. Which is why Diarrhea in a child should not be taken lightly as children are prone to complications easily; complications that are absolutely avoidable if the right steps are taken. So in today’s article I will be writing about some simple steps you can take to help your child recover from Diarrhea.
The biggest threat that children face with Diarrhea is ‘Dehydration’. So before we talk about the things you must do, it is important to know the warning signs of Dehydration.
Your child is beginning to get Dehydrated if:
- He or she has dry and sticky mouth
- He or she has increased thirst
- He or her urine has become scanty or is absent
- There are no tears present while crying
- The skin feels cold to touch and appears pale
- There is marked lack of energy
- If the Skin pinch test is positive- pull the skin on the abdomen, over the front of the chest, near collarbone or on the back of the hand. In a child who is mildly dehydrated- the skin will appear wrinkled after pulling it and will take some time to go back to normal.
Dehydration can lead to permanent and irreversible damage including Seizures, brain damage and organ failure. Therefore, the goal of Diarrhea treatment should be to start early so that these complications can be avoided.
It is very important to replace the fluid that is lost because of loose motions and vomiting. So make sure you administer enough fluids to your child. Increase the amount of fluids in your child’s diet. Add a lot of soups, daals, juices in his or her diet. Remember in a child less than 6 months of age- exclusive breast feeding is recommended in spite of loose stools and vomiting. ORS can be added as an additional measure to replace the fluid loss.
Start your child with ORS or ORAL REHYDRATION SOLUTION. ORS is available in all the medical stores and government health centers.
It not only helps in replenishing the fluid loss but also gives back the electrolytes lost during loose motions. Water is not enough as it does not consist of electrolytes. Therefore, only ORS can ensure recovery of these losses.
In case if ORS is not available, you can do this at home-
Mix six tea spoons of sugar and half teaspoon of salt in a liter of water.
Be careful about the quantity of salt as well as sugar as both in high amounts can worsen the diarrhea. So stick to the recommended amount.
How much ORS should be administered?
If your child is less than 2 years of age:
Your child will need at least 1/4th or 1/2 a cup of ORS (a cup is of 250ml) after each episode of watery stools.
If your child is more than 2 years of age:
Your child needs 1/2 or one cup of ORS after each episode of watery stools.
Probiotics can be administered to the child as they are known to cut short the episodes of Diarrhea. Repeated loose stools can harm the naturally occurring GUT bacteria and Probiotics help in replenishing them. Probiotics that contain lactic acid bacilli are well tolerated.
Zinc is essential for children both with or without diarrhea. However, Zinc supplementation has shown to cut short the episodes of loose stools in children. Talk to your Pediatrician about Zinc supplements available in the market. They are present in the form of drops for smaller children and syrups for older children. As per the recommendation of IMNCI, from the Government of India- Zinc supplements should be administered for 14 days since the child develops Diarrhea. It is important to understand that these are just a few tips that you can follow by yourself. If your child develops loose stools, you must promptly get in touch with your Pediatrician and seek treatment. At times your child might require administration of certain medicines to stop the loose motions.