Diarrhea

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Care at Home

  • MILD DIARRHEA:   * Keep on a normal diet.   * Eat more starchy foods (such as cereal, crackers, rice). * Drink more fluids. Formula or milk are good choices for this illness. * Do not use fruit juices or soft drinks. Reason: They make diarrhea worse.
  • FORMULA-FED BABIES WITH FREQUENT, WATERY DIARRHEA: START ORAL REHYDRATION SOLUTIONS (ORS) * ORS is a special fluid that can help your child stay hydrated. You can use Pedialyte or the store brand. It can be bought in food or drug stores. * Start ORS for frequent, watery diarrhea. (Note: Formula is fine for mild diarrhea.) * Use ORS alone for 4 to 6 hours to prevent dehydration. Offer as much of it as your child will drink. * If you don't have ORS, use formula mixed normally until you can get some. Offer as much formula as your child will take. * Do not use Jello water, sports drinks, or fruit juice. Reason: They make diarrhea worse.
  • BREASTFED INFANTS WITH FREQUENT, WATERY DIARRHEA: * Keep nursing, but more often. * Offer 2-4 ounces (60-120 mls) ORS (such as Pedialyte). Give after all large watery stools (especially if urine is dark). Do this in addition to breastfeeding. * Babies over 4 months old: Keep on baby foods. If diarrhea is bad, start with cereals.
  • OLDER CHILDREN (OVER 1 YEAR OLD) WITH FREQUENT, WATERY DIARRHEA: * FLUIDS: Offer as much fluid as your child will drink. If taking solids, use water or half-strength Gatorade. If won't eat solids, give milk or formula. * Do not use fruit juices and soft drinks. Reason: They make diarrhea worse. * ORS (such as Pedialyte) is rarely needed. But, for bad diarrhea, also give 4-8 ounces (120-240ml) of ORS. Do this after all large watery stools (especially if the urine is dark). * SOLIDS: Starchy foods are the best.  Give dried cereals, oatmeal, bread, crackers, noodles, mashed potatoes, or rice.  Pretzels or salty crackers can help meet salt needs. * Go back to a normal diet in 24 hours.
  • DIAPER RASH: * Wash buttocks after each stool to prevent a bad diaper rash. * To protect the skin, use an ointment (such as petroleum jelly). Put it on the skin around the anus.
  • RETURN TO SCHOOL: * Your child can go back to school after the stools are formed. * The fever should also be gone. * The older child can go back if the diarrhea is mild. * The older child also needs to have good control over loose stools.
  • WHAT TO EXPECT: * Viral diarrhea lasts 5-14 days. * Severe diarrhea only occurs on the first 1 or 2 days. But, loose stools can last for 1 to 2 weeks.  
  • CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF: * Signs of dehydration occur * Diarrhea lasts over 2 weeks * Your child becomes worse
  • WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: * Most diarrhea is caused by a virus. * Diarrhea is the body's way of getting rid of the germs. * Here are some tips on how to keep ahead of the fluid losses.
  • GOING BACK TO FORMULA: * Go back to formula by 6 hours at the latest. Reason: Your baby needs the calories. * Use formula mixed the normal way. Reason: It contains plenty of water. * Offer the formula more often than you normally do. * Lactose: Regular formula is fine for most diarrhea. Lactose-free formula (soy formula) are only needed for watery diarrhea lasting over 3 days. * Extra ORS: Also give 2-4 ounces (60-120 ml) of ORS after every large watery stool. (especially if the urine is dark).
  • SOLIDS: * Babies over 4 months old: Keep on baby foods. If diarrhea is bad, start with cereals. * Go back to a normal diet in 24 hours.
  • PROBIOTICS: * Probiotics are healthy bacteria (such as Lactobacilli). They can replace harmful bacteria in the GI tract. * YOGURT is the easiest source of probiotics. If over 12 months old, give 2 to 6 ounces (60 to 180 ml) of yogurt. Do this twice daily. (Note: Today, almost all yogurts are 'active culture'.) * Probiotic supplements can also be bought in health food stores.

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