Treating and Managing Diarrhea in Infants
Diarrhea in infants
is stools that are runny, with or without mucus, pale yellow to green in color, foul smelling and is accompanied with stomach cramping. The frequency of passing stools would be more than three times a day.
Immediate treatment of symptoms of diarrhea in babies is of great importance. This is because, if ignored, then it may cause severe dehydration. Extreme dehydration can be life threatening for infants. Hence, it is important to know about the causes and symptoms as well as how to manage and treat them.
What causes Diarrhea in babies?
Diarrhea is indicative of a malabsorption happening in the small intestine. When water is not absorbed well in the small intestine or the food passes too quickly through the same , it results in diarrhea. The different causes of diarrhea in babies are as follows:
Viral Infection or Stomach flu
: Viral contamination is a common cause of diarrhea in young infants in between 6 months and 2 years of age. The different viruses which contract infants are Rota virus, Cytomegalovirus, Herpes simplex virus. The virus which is the most common in affecting infants is the Rotavirus. Viral infection is easily spread through the feco-oral route. Hence, it is of primary importance to wash hands well after changing diapers or handling baby poop.
: Bacteria attacking the gut in infants can also be a cause. Bacteria like Salmonella, Escherichia Coli (E.Coli) and Campylobacter. It is mostly caused by consuming contaminated food and water.
Antibiotics and other medications
: Severe diarrhea is a side effect of antibiotics, blood pressure medicines, magnesium containing drugs used for treating hyperacidity, cancer drugs etc.
: Parasites and worms in the gastrointestinal tract can cause diarrhea. Some common parasites are Entamoeba Histolytica, Cryptosporidium, Giardia Lamblia. This type of diarrhea is also accompanied with abdominal cramping.
: In a lot of infants a necessary enzyme, namely, lactase is not present. This enzyme is essential for metabolizing the milk sugar lactose. In that case, an infant may have loose watery stools.
Intestinal diseases and Bowel Disorders
: Intestinal diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, crohn’s disease may lead to the said condition.
Food Allergy and Irritants in mother’s diet
: An infant may be allergic to a certain food protein. If the mother consumes the same there is a chance of the protein percolating into the baby’s system through breast milk. This ends up causing watery stools as an allergic reaction.
: Teething is a phase in infants where the constant irritation in the gums causes them to grab any thing they can get their hands on and chew it. This causes germs to enter the digestive tract and cause diarrhea.
Symptoms of Diarrhea in infants
The symptoms of diarrhea in children are mostly caused by the dehydration caused by the diarrhea.
- Irritants in mom’s diet.
- High Fever.
- Dry eyes and crying without tears.
- Decreased frequency and quantity of urine. There are no wet diapers for a period of almost 6 hours.
- Infant is dull and lethargic.
- Dry skin in the areas around the mouth.
- Sunken eyes and cheeks.
- Loss of appetite but decrease in thirst.
- A severe symptom could be blood in stools. This mostly points toward an impending bacterial, viral or parasitic infection.
How to manage and treat diarrhea in babies?
- The first step would be to check as to what could have gone wrong to have caused the loose stools in the first place. Check the different causes and try relating them to the symptoms. Generally, presence of a fever with the loose motion is indicative of an infection. New foods introduced in the child’s diet could signal towards any particular food allergy that the child may have. Or it could be that the child is in taking excessive fiber. Determining the exact reason is an important step in treating a disease.
- As far as medicines are concerned, antibiotics are used in case the underlying cause of the condition is a bacterial infection. Viral infections generally resolve without any medication. Anti microbials and deworming drugs should be taken at regular intervals to prevent it from recurring. Anti diarrheal medications which slows down the transit of fluids in the intestine like Loperamide and Diphenoxylate are not advised for children.
- During the period the baby is having diarrhea, it would be a good idea to eliminate any suspicious foods from the baby’s diet. Dairy, wheat, sugar, fatty food, juice etc should be stopped.
- It is important to maintain a diarrhea journal as to the number of times the baby passed stools, the change in body temperature if any, any incidents of vomiting, changes in body weight etc. This makes it extremely helpful for the physician to treat the baby and understand the history behind the symptoms.
- It is important to be careful while changing diapers. In cases of infection, improper hygiene can spread the bacteria or virus. It is also important to keep an eye as to whether the baby is getting any diaper rash. Frequent stools may cause irritation on the skin. Application of an emollient cream will provide relief.
- Apart from medications to treat
diarrhea in infants
, it needs to be understood that diet is the most useful therapy in this case. Make the baby have smaller meals at more frequent intervals than normal. The amount of fluids need to be increased as compared to the solids. Oral rehydration solutions like Pedialyte should be given every 4-8 hours. The BRAT diet is famous as far as diarrhea is concerned. BRAT actually stands for Banana, Rice, Apple sauce and Toast without butter. It is important not to force feed the baby. Children on breast milk can continue to have it without any danger. Probiotics containing gut friendly bacteria like lactobacillus or acidophilus obtained from foods like yogurt may be helpful.