Baby Health

Vetted by S Gupta, MBBS, MD, FNB-PICU on 23 Dec, 2021
Baby Health
Diarrhoea in Baby: Everything About Managing Upset Stomach

Seeing babies become weak and tired due to loose motions is distressing for parents. Diarrhea is a common health concern in children below five years of age in India. Babies between six and 24 months of age are the most vulnerable to this disease.

Let us understand how to effectively manage loose motions and dehydration due to diarrhea in babies.

What are the common causes of diarrhea in babies?

Diarrhea is commonly caused by:

  • Microbial infection due to virus, bacteria, or parasites
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Medical conditions such as celiac disease
  • Food allergies

What are the symptoms of diarrhea in babies?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines diarrhea as the passage of three or more loose or liquid stools per day. However, if your baby is passing formed stools frequently or a breastfed baby passes loose, pasty stools, it is not diarrhea. On average, a child below five years has two to three episodes of diarrhea during a year. While viral diarrhea may occur during cooler months, bacterial diarrhea occurs mostly in the warm season.

Your baby may have the following symptoms in addition to loose motions that last for three to five days:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss

If diarrhea persists for more than 14 days, doctors refer to it as chronic diarrhea.

How can I manage my baby’s diarrhea?

The government of India guidelines recommends energy-rich feeds in addition to breastfeeding infants who have diarrhea. You may manage the symptoms of diarrhea in the following manner:

  • Oral rehydration solution (ORS): It is the first-line treatment for diarrhea. Low osmolarity ORS prevents dehydration by replenishing the water and electrolytes.
  • Zinc: Zinc supplements prescribed for 14 days help restore the excessive loss of essential nutrients and reduce the severity and duration of diarrhea and the recurrence of episodes. 
  • Diet: While you should continue to breastfeed your infant, babies above six months may be given well-cooked and mashed vegetables, cereals, coconut water, bananas, and yogurt.
  • Antibiotics: The WHO recommends using antibiotics only if your baby passes blood with stools.
  • Immunization: You may vaccinate your baby against some viral infections like diarrhea caused by rotavirus.
  • Fluids and hydration: Hydration is very important for babies with diarrhea as they lose a lot of body water through stools. Other than ORS, other rehydration solutions like buttermilk, dal water, rice water, coconut water, salted lassi or lemon water can be used as per your baby’s liking. Feeding water in large amounts can help. After every stool, give 50 to 100 ml fluids to babies up to two years of age.

What are the preventive measures for diarrhea?

Unhygienic conditions, contaminated water, and poor sanitation may cause diarrhea. You may practice the following preventive measures for diarrhea :

  • Wash hands with soap and water
  • Use clean and safe methods to cook and store your food
  • Use a toilet for defecation
  • Use clean water

What foods should be avoided if my baby has diarrhea?

Avoiding the following foods can help control diarrhea :

  • Greasy (or fried) or packaged food.
  • Food that causes gas.
  • Milk.
  • Fruit juices and caffeine-containing and carbonated drinks.
  • Contaminated food and water.

When should I call a doctor if my baby has diarrhea?

You should take your baby to the doctor if your baby has severe diarrhea with the following symptoms:

  • High fever above 101.5°F
  • Blood in stool
  • Symptoms of dehydration such as thirst, decreased urination, and lethargy
  • Failure to eat or drink

Follow cleanliness and good sanitation to keep your baby safe from diarrhea. Replenish electrolytes and water in your baby. Typically, your baby will feel better in three to four days. See a doctor if symptoms are severe.