Infant diarrhoea

Infant diarrhoea

One of the most common symptoms of tummy troubles is diarrhoea – watery stools that are different in appearance and frequency than those your baby has had before. (This is an important detail, since many young infants, especially breastfed babies, normally have thin or watery stools.)

Most infectious diarrhoeas are caused by viruses that tend to be more common in the summer but can come along at any time. These infections usually last several days, but you just have to give it time.

Keep your baby hydrated

The key is to give your baby plenty of fluids, even if he doesn't have much of an appetite or seem very thirsty. Continue to feed him if his diarrhoea is mild. Give him small portions of bland foods that contain the fibre pectin throughout the day. Try apple sauce, rice, bananas and mashed potatoes. If you're formula feeding, add 30 ml or more of water to the mix, diluting the formula slightly. Avoid teas, which don't have the necessary salts, as well as fruit juices – they can actually increase fluid loss because of their high salt content. If your baby's stools are particularly frequent and watery (hourly, for example, and soaking through the nappy), you may need to give him 30 to 60 ml of a commercial electrolyte solution every hour or two for a day before going back to his regular feeding pattern.

Call for assistance

If his diarrhoea isn't getting better, check in with his healthcare provider. Giving your baby any diarrhoea medicine without very explicit directions from an experienced healthcare provider can be dangerous. These treatments can cause serious bowel stoppage and sedation.

FYI: Diarrhoea almost always creates skin irritation in the nappy area. Change your baby frequently and apply an ointment to the area – or use a nappy with petroleum embedded in the lining – to protect his skin from the burning properties of fast-running stools.

When to call

It's hard to know when to contact the healthcare provider, but if your child is exhibiting any of the following symptoms, call his provider immediately:

  • A dry mouth, lack of tears, dark urine or acting very ill
  • Stool containing pus or blood, or that is black or persistently green
  • Vomiting that accompanies diarrhoea, lasting for more than eight hours
  • High fever or serious abdominal pain that accompanies diarrhoea.

Minor stomach complaints are typical among young children. It's important you understand how to manage them at home to avoid visits to Casualty, hospitalisations and prolonged discomfort. Your little one will soon feel better!

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