Every mother in every part of the world is far too familiar with this dialogue. After all, kids are more prone to diarrhoea (and other stomach infections) than adults, because their immune systems aren’t fully developed. This is a huge concern for mothers.
What is diarrhoea?
It’s characterised by passing watery stools 3 or more times a day, with a significant increase in the amount of stool and their liquid consistency. Diarrhoea lasting longer than 2 days may be a symptom of a more serious problem that brings with it the risk of dehydration. Consult your doctor in that case, or if you notice high fever or blood in the stool.
Broadly, kids are affected by:
1. Viral diarrhoea
Sources of contamination are easy and plenty in public places like nurseries or creches, so kids can get infections easily. Usually viruses (like Rotavirus, Adenovirus and others) are the main causes of acute diarrhoea and therefore of infantile gastroenteritis, but sometimes important bacteria are also involved (E. Coli, Salmonella).
2. Diarrhoea due to antibiotics
This kind of diarrhoea in kids is caused by a reaction to an antibiotic, and is reported in up to 20-25%* of cases. It may either lead to hospitalization or a sudden discontinuation of the antibiotic.
What causes diarrhoea?
Normally, the gut flora works as a defense against harmful bacteria or viruses that can cause infections. Sometimes, these infections can present themselves as diarrhoea.
Intolerances to lactose or artificial sweeteners, or poorly prepared food, can result in diarrhoea.
Reactions to drugs
Antibiotics which alter the balance of gut flora, like antacids containing magnesium, can cause diarrhoea.
The lesser known causes of diarrhoea
Change in weather, diet or even places are known to have an impact on our digestive system/ body. When we travel, we barely think to give our body the time to adjust to this change, or even prepare for it. Our gut flora loses its natural balance as a result and the consequence is diarrhoea. It’s important to think about your kids in this regard whenever you make travel plans because changes in food, water or uncertain hygiene conditions can make your kid susceptible to stomach infections/diarrhoea.
There is a close link between weather conditions and physiological processes. Whenever our body is faced with variations in temperature, pressure or light, it needs to get used to that change. It is possible that this season change weakens your child’s immune system and makes him more vulnerable.
Gastrointestinal dysfunctions such as gastritis, colitis, pain, swelling and diarrhoea have a lot to do with our regular diet. The right food helps control the good functioning of the gut flora. It’s best to have your kids habituated to take meals at well-defined times as that helps regularity. Also ensure that your child drinks up to 2 litres of water a day to stay well hydrated.
Antibiotic drugs that are very useful in the treatment of many diseases can sometimes have secondary gastrointestinal effects in children. For this reason, during and after antibiotic treatment, it is advisable to buffer the negative effects on the good bacterial flora in the child’s gut.
So, bearing all this in mind, a regular intake of probiotics helps maintain the balance of good bacteria in your child’s gut.
How can you prevent diarrhoea?
It cannot be stressed enough how important basic hygiene is. Poor levels of hygiene and sanitation are an open invitation for several infections and diseases, and diarrhoea is one of them. However, with good practices very regularly early on, you can reduce episodes or chances of diarrhoea. Now some of this you may already know but it doesn’t hurt to reassert!