Diarrhea happens to be a very common illness in children. It affects children of all age groups however younger children are more vulnerable to getting dehydrated and developing other complications associated with Diarrhea.
Diarrhea also happens to be a major cause behind under-five mortality or one of the major reasons for children dying before 5 years of age. Therefore, it is very important to know that Diarrhea is a treatable and absolutely preventable condition.
Next thing to keep in mind is to approach a Pediatrician, once your child shows repeated loose stools, fever, vomiting, and abdominal pain. You must also consider asking your Pediatrician about the duration of Diarrhea treatment.
In healthy and well-nourished kids suffering from Acute Diarrhea- the treatment does not need to last for more than 5-7 days, as their recovery is fast. However, in a kid who is under-nourished or malnourished even Acute Diarrhea can result in serious problems. So their treatment should go on for a longer period as compared to healthy children. As a thumb rule- the duration of Diarrhea treatment is decided based on Nature of Diarrhea (Short term or Acute OR Long term or Chronic), State of Nutrition of the Child (Well Nourished, Malnourished, Under Nourished) and the state of Dehydration (Mild, Moderate, Severe)
Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to Diarrhea treatment:
As I mentioned earlier, dehydration is one of the most important complication behind Diarrhea. Therefore, it is very important to start your child on fluids as soon as the symptoms of Diarrhea appear.
You must include lots of soups, daals and fresh fruit juices in your child’s diet. For infants who are less than 6 months of age, exclusive breastfeeding is recommended.
The tricky part in fluid replacement with Diarrhea is to understand that your child is not just losing fluids from the body but also essential electrolytes. Therefore, the best way to replenish their stores in your child’s body is to administer ORS or ORAL REHYDRATION SOLUTION.
ORS is a special formulation, made on the guidelines of the WHO or WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION.
It is supposed to be mixed with water and administered to your child. ORS composition consists of electrolytes that are depleted from your child’s body with loose motions.
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.
ORS is easily available at all chemists and hospitals. In case you do not have access to commercially available ORS- here is how you can make it at home:
Mix six teaspoons of sugar and half teaspoon of salt in a liter of water.
Make sure to stick to the advised quantity as excessive sugar and salt both can be harmful for your child.
Zinc supplementation has shown to cut short the episodes of loose stools in children. 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.
Remember these are a few tips that are needed to be kept in mind to deal with Diarrhea, your Pediatrician is the best person to decide the course and duration of treatment. As apart from ORS and Zinc supplementation, your child may require medicines too.