Diarrhoea | Emma's Diary India

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Treating your young baby for diarrhoea

One of the most common new-mum topics is baby poo and of course, diarrhoea, which all babies will succumb to at some stage in their early months or years.

Diarrhoea in babies or frequent abnormally runny stools, is often, but not always, caused by a viral infection.

It can also result from too much fruit in the diet or a food sensitivity or intolerance, in fact, some parents claim that teething also causes diarrhoea.

If the diarrhoea comes on suddenly, accompanied at the beginning with fever and vomiting or lack of appetite, it's most likely to be a viral infection. It's self-limiting and will go away but could take anything from a few days to two weeks.

The most worrying side effect of diarrhoea (apart from a sore bottom) is dehydration (see signs of dehydration below).

If your baby has had six or more episodes of diarrhoea in the last 24 hours you should take her to your doctor.

How can I tell if it is diarrhoea?

Sometimes it's not easy to tell. Younger breastfed babies often have very soft yellowy stools which is perfectly normal. If, however, the stool is watery, mucus-streaked, unusually smelly and more frequent than normal then it is diarrhoea.

Parents are often amazed by the variety of colour and frequency of a newborn baby's poo and it's perfectly natural for her to fill her nappy up to five times a day.

For slightly older baby's diarrhoea is easier to recognise as you will come to know how your baby’s poo normally looks and smells!

Breastfed babies will often pass a stool during or immediately after each breastfeeding session.

This is because as her stomach fills up, the milk stimulates her intestinal tract, prompting a bowel movement. Within a month, most breastfed babies have settled down to one or two bowel movements a day.

How can I treat her?

Mild diarrhoea.

If your baby is still breastfeeding then carry on. Breastmilk has fluids and electrolytes needed to prevent dehydration.

If your baby is weaned eliminate fruit juice from her diet and give her plenty of boiled, cooled water. Change her onto a bland diet (like bananas, toast, rice, dry crackers, baby yoghurts).

Acute diarrhoea.

If your baby is not yet weaned and you are breastfeeding, carry on. Do not attempt to give your baby any doses of adult medication as they could have serious side effects.

Cuddle and comfort her as much as possible, and keep her dry. Use care and tenderness when changing nappies since it's easy for a baby's bottom to become sore with diarrhoea.

Wash her clothes and bedding separately to prevent the spread of infection. Wash her hands and your own frequently to help prevent spreading the bug to other people.

When to call the doctor

Call your doctor if the diarrhoea lasts more than 12 hours or is accompanied by apparent cramping, tummy ache, fever or bloody stools; or if your baby shows signs of dehydration.

Your doctor will most likely prescribe an oral rehydration solution, to replace fluids and nutrients lost through the diarrhoea.

This is usually a powder which can be dissolved in water and fed to your baby in small regular doses. It is important to make it exactly as described on the packet. Never add it to a feed or baby juice.

Signs of dehydration

  • Sunken eyes or doughy skin
  • Dry skin or lips
  • Listlessness (unresponsive)
  • Tearless crying
  • A sunken fontanelle
  • Discoloured hands and feet
  • Strong yellow urine
  • Fewer wet nappies than usual

What causes diarrhoea?

The most common cause of diarrhoea is a virus called rotavirus.

Rotavirus infects by the faecal-oral route via contact with contaminated hands, surfaces and objects.

It causes gastroenteritis, which is an infection of the gut that damages the inner lining of the intestine. The injured lining leaks fluid and allows food to pass through without absorbing any nutrients. This often causes very foul smelling watery, green or brown diarrhoea, which is accompanied by fever and vomiting in the first couple of days. As the gut lining in a baby takes some time to repair itself after a viral illness the diarrhoea can persist for days or even a couple of weeks.

Your baby will be offered an oral vaccine against rotavirus at two and three months of age.

Proper hygiene can help reduce the chance of diarrhoea, because the micro-organisms which cause it can easily be passed from hand to mouth. So wash your hands thoroughly with soap after handling dirty nappies or using the toilet.

To prevent your baby passing on her diarrhoea to other children, keep her away from childcare or nursery until at least 48 hours after her last episode, and don't take her swimming for two weeks afterwards.

Diarrhoea can also be caused by:

  • Food intolerances and allergies
  • Coughs and colds
  • Antibiotics
  • Food poisoning
  • Enzyme deficiencies, although these are rare
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