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Most diarrhea in children is short-lived, caused by a virus and goes away on its own. Both adult and baby diarrhea are frequent and watery bowel movements. Babies with diarrhea can dehydrate quickly so they should be watched carefully particularly under the age of 3 months. Infant diarrhea can be dangerous because it drains water and salts from the baby. The signs of dehydration are:
Mild – slightly dry mouth, less wet diapers, less active, more irritable.
Moderate – sunken looking eyes, lethargic, dry skin (not springy)
Severe – sunken soft spot on top of the head; no urine for 6 hours; when skin is pinched between fingers, it does not spring back; very lethargic or even unconscious.
If your child has diarrhea, it is most important to give your baby enough liquids. Continue to give your baby breast milk or formula. Yoghurt contains bacteria that are good for digestion so this can be given to older babies. Oatmeal mixed with a little breast milk or formula also helps to control diarrhea. However, if your baby cannot keep anything down then you need to contact your doctor who will probably prescribe a pediatric electrolyte solution or an oral rehydration solution (this is an exact mixture of water, salts and sugar and is available from drugstores in ready-to-serve preparations, frozen pops and powders).
Apart from a virus, other causes of diarrhea in babies can be an allergy, a bacterial infection, a change of diet (or a change of diet in mother if she is breast feeding), medication or a number of rare diseases. It is normal in newborn babies for them to have up to 12 small bowel movements per day that reduce to about 1 per day by 3 months. A sudden increase in the frequency of a baby’s bowel movements combined with its water content can mean diarrhea.
You should call your doctor if any of the following apply in the case of your baby:
Diarrhea in a newborn baby
Bloody or black stools
Still vomiting after 4-6 hours
A fever higher than 38.5 degrees C or 101.5 degrees F
Signs of dehydration
Diarrhea germs are easily spread from person to person and especially from child to child. This spread can be reduced if parents and children all wash their hands carefully after every diaper change and after using the toilet and before preparing and eating food.