Diarrhoea in Children

When a child’s bowel habits changes suddenly to become loose and watery, he or she has diarrhoea. Diarrhoea can be acute (duration less than a week) or chronic (lasting more than 2 weeks).

Acute Diarrhoea

Acute diarrhoea is commonly caused by infection with viruses, bacteria or parasites. Some of the associated symptoms are tummy pain, vomiting, frequent loose stools and fever. Dehydration is also common.

In mild cases, treatment involves ensuring that the child takes adequate oral fluids and continues to be active. However, in some cases, profuse diarrhoea and/or vomiting may cause moderate to severe dehydration. It is important to seek medical attention early as appropriate treatment such as giving replacement fluids through the veins may be necessary. Your doctor may also prescribe antidiarrhoeal medications, oral replacement fluids and probiotics depending on the symptoms.

Chronic Diarrhoea

Chronic diarrhoea refers to diarrhoea lasting more than 2 weeks. It is less common than acute diarrhoea. Patients with chronic diarrhoea often have other symptoms such as blood in the stools, loss of weight, lethargy, fever, vomiting etc. If your child has chronic diarrhoea, he or she should be assessed by a paediatric gastroenterologist to determine the causes. Specialist investigations include blood tests, specialised stool tests, breath tests. In some cases, upper endoscopy and colonoscopy are performed to make the diagnosis. Causes of chronic diarrhoea include infections, inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohns disease, ulcerative colitis, food intolerance, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome etc. It is important that these patients receive early treatment to control their condition.

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