An infant’s stools are usually soft and loose, at least for the first few months. However, if you’re noticing extra watery stools in your young one’s diaper, it is likely that your toddler has a bout of diarrhea.
Though infant mortality from diarrhoea is rare in developed countries, in developing countries like India, the lack of awareness about proper treatment is often responsible for infant deaths from untreated severe diarrhoea.
Diarrhoea is not that unusual in infants who have just started consuming solid foods, as their digestive system is not yet fully accustomed to the new variety of food. Moreover, each baby is different. Some are more lactose intolerant than others. However, the severity of diarrhoea can be judged by the frequency of stools and by how watery they are.
Causes Of Diarrhoea
There are several reasons why your toddler can experience diarrhoea. Here are a few:
Rotavirus is one of the leading causes of diarrhoea among toddlers, as they have a weak immune system that is still in the process of developing. This makes them more susceptible to infections than their adult counterparts. This also makes the disease produce more severe symptoms and can easily result in dehydration in infants.
Exposure to parasites can often lead to diarrhoea. The parasites alter the function of the intestine and cause an excessive loss of fluid from the body. This leads to watery diarrhoea which may be associated with fever sometimes. If your toddler goes to places where he/she interacts with other toddlers like a day-care center, then the probability of contracting diarrhoea is far more because of a general lack of hygiene.
Lactose intolerance is very common among toddlers and it can often lead to mild diarrhea. It is also possible for a nursing infant to get diarrhea if the mother is consuming foods that may cause an allergic reaction in the infant. Allergy to milk protein is one of the most common causes of diarrhoea.
Out of every 10 children who take antibiotics, one suffers from diarrhoea. Since antibiotics kill healthy gut bacteria along with the harmful ones, toddlers may experience loose stools.
How Can I Take Care of My Toddler?
Fluids Are Your Friends
Diarrhoea is often more than a mild annoyance. It can cause symptoms that range from mild to extremely severe. The most important thing to ensure at this time is that your infant is receiving adequate amounts of fluids that can prevent the onset of dehydration.
Most often, diarrhoea lasts a minimum of 3-4 days, as it requires this much time for the offending agent to be expelled from the body.
Diarrhoea leads to loss of water from the body and makes it a potentially life-threatening condition. Make sure you give your toddler a generous amount of liquids. Water is usually enough. ORS (Oral Rehydration Salts) is preferred, as it acts as a method of treatment too by reducing the volume of fluid lost from the body. But you can try vegetable broths and soups. If your toddler refuses soft foods, give milk rather than water, as it provides extra nutrition.
Don’t Stop The Food Supply
It’s important that your toddler eats even if there is diarrhoea. If your toddler has mild diarrhoea, give him/her milk and milk products as long as he/she is not allergic to them. If your toddler is suffering from frequent diarrhea, make sure you feed him/her starch-rich food like grains, dried cereal, pasta and mashed potatoes, mashed carrots etc., all of which help to firm up the stools.
What You Should Avoid
Carbonated soda or juices are a complete no-no, as they are highly concentrated and sugary. Instead, give your toddler milk as it has extra nutrients. Do not restrict fluid intake, as it is vital to maintain the level of fluids in your toddler’s body.
How Can I Prevent Diarrhoea?
Diarrhoea can be a real cause of concern because it is highly contagious. Therefore, its prevention also involves ensuring high standards of hygiene. Keep an eye on what your toddler puts in his mouth. Moreover, make sure your hands are always clean especially when you feed the baby or prepare the solid feeds. It is important that you are following good hygiene practices.
There are times when despite your best efforts, your toddler will fall sick. Don’t worry, it’s not unusual for infants to get diarrhoea. Maintaining a level of hygiene will ensure it doesn’t happen repeatedly.
You can also follow steps to reduce your toddler’s discomfort. Repeated stools can irritate the skin of your toddler’s buttocks. Clean it after every stool and apply a good quality diaper cream to keep that area moisturized and protected from rash.
Should You Call Your Doctor?
Diarrhoea can sometimes get worse than expected. It’s good to get in touch with your doctor immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Characteristic signs of dehydration such as no urine for extended periods (12 hours), sunken eyes, decrease or absence of tears, drowsiness, lethargy or decreased activity.
- Blood in stool.
- Repeated vomiting.
- Mucus or pus in the stool.
- High fever above 102ºC.
- If mild diarrhoea lasts for more than two weeks.
It’s important to remember that loose stools are common among toddlers. Don’t go into panic mode if your toddler has occasional loose stools. It might just be the baby’s body adapting to a diet change. Frequent loose stools (3 or 4 in a few hours) are when you should start worrying.
Usually, diarrhoea is self-limiting and there is no need to worry if your baby is active, feeding well, not irritable, and is passing a good quantity of urine frequently. But it’s important to take proper care of your toddler when he or she is suffering from diarrhea of any form. If you think something is wrong, don’t hesitate to call your doctor. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!