Diarrhea in Babies: Factfile II

Diarrhea in Babies: Factfile II


BABYMINDER – Diarrhea doesn’t just cause discomfort; it may even lead to death in children.

Diarrhea is either the increase in frequency of stools or having watery stools. Diarrhea is among the top five causes of sickness and death in the Philippines among the less than one year olds. The threat is greater in infants because of their susceptibility to infection, and water and electrolyte loss.

4The causes of diarrhea can be infectious or non-infectious. Infection agents include bacteria, parasites and fungi. Non-infectious agents include poison intolerance—to milk and other food, overfeeding, allergy and drugs.

Studies show that certain types of Escheridia colibasteria touch off most diarrhea epidemics. Certain E. Coli strains found in raw food and contaminated water—and in toilets—can cause severe diarrhea. Heat kills E. Coli bacteria, thus, food should be cooked well and drinking water should be kept clean and coiled if necessary.

Signs and symptoms

Diarrhea can be mild or severe. The mild type come in three to six episodes of watery stools a day, irritability, fretfulness and slight fever. Vomiting is seldom observed so there is no threat of dehydration.

Severe diarrhea comes with explosive bowel movement, high fever and vomiting. Dehydration or electrolyte loss rapidly sets in. Other signs are sunken eyeballs and fontanelle (soft part near the middle of the top of the head), abdominal distention, and rapid deep breathing.

What to do?

[pq]Dehydration from diarrhea threatens an infant’s life. Go to a doctor if the baby shows symptoms of severe diarrhea.[/pq]


Mild or moderate dehydration can be prevented or remedied if an oral-rehydration solution (ORS) is given early. ORS can be bought over the counter and typically contains glucose, sodium, potassium, and bicarbonate or citrate. ORS can also be prepared at home by mixing the following ingredients in a liter of sterilized drinking water:

• 1/3 teaspoon fine table salt
• 1/3 teaspoon baking soda or sodium bicarbonate
• 1/3 teaspoon potassium chloride
• 4-6 teaspoons glucose powder

If these ingredients aren’t available, prepare instead a sat-sugar mixture with a teaspoon of slat and six to eight teaspoons of fine sugar dissolved in a liter of sterilized drinking water. Banana or apple juice may also be given.

Breastfeeding is more effective than ORS. Breastfeeding an infant during diarrhea can reduce electrolyte and fluid lasses and lessen the need for oral rehydration. Breast milk contains substances that prevent microbial infection and enhance the immune system.

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