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Acute Diarrhea In Children
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Acute diarrhea starts quickly and lasts a short time, usually less than 7 days. It can last up to 2 weeks. Your child may have several loose bowel movements throughout the day. He may also have a fever, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and a loss of appetite. Acute diarrhea usually stops on its own.
Return to the emergency department if:
- Your child has a fever higher than 102°F.
- Your child cannot drink any liquids.
- Your child cries without tears.
- Your child has blood in his bowel movements.
- Your child's eyes look sunken in, or the soft spot on your infant's head looks sunken in.
- Your child has a seizure.
- Your child seems confused and is not answering you, or you cannot wake him.
- Your child has severe abdominal pain.
Contact your child's healthcare provider if:
- Your child has worsening abdominal pain.
- Your child is more irritable, fussy, or tired than usual.
- Your child has a dry mouth and lips.
- Your child has dry, cool skin.
- Your child urinates less than usual, or his urine is dark yellow.
- Your child is losing weight.
- Your child's diarrhea lasts longer than 1 to 2 weeks.
- You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.
Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Manage acute diarrhea:
- Give your child plenty of liquids. This will help to prevent dehydration. Ask how much liquid your child should drink each day and which liquids are best for him.
- Continue to feed your child regular foods. Your child can continue to eat the foods he normally eats. This includes breast milk and formula for infants. You may need to feed your child smaller amounts of food than normal. You may also need to give your child foods that he can tolerate. These may include rice, potatoes, and bread. It also includes fruits (bananas, melon), well-cooked vegetables, lean meats, yogurt, and skim or 1% milk. Avoid giving your child foods that are high in fiber, fat, and sugar.
- Give your child oral rehydration solution as directed. Oral rehydration solution (ORS) has the right amounts of water, salts, and sugar that your child needs to replace lost body fluids. Ask what kind of ORS your child needs, how much he should drink, and where to get it.
Prevent acute diarrhea:
- Remind your child to wash his hands well and often. He should always wash his hands with soap and water after using the toilet and before he eats.
- Keep bathroom surfaces clean to help prevent the spread of germs that cause acute diarrhea.
- Wash fruits and vegetables well before eating.
- Wash kitchen counters and cooking utensils well after you have prepared any raw meats.
- Place raw meat in the refrigerator as soon as possible after shopping at the supermarket. Bacteria can grow in meat that is left at room temperature too long. Cook meat thoroughly before eating. Place leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as possible.
- Do not give your child unsterilized water or uncooked vegetables when you travel to foreign countries.
- Ask your child's healthcare provider about the rotavirus vaccine. This vaccine helps to prevent diarrhea caused by the rotavirus.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.