Diarrhea is in babies No rarity. In most cases it is caused by a gastrointestinal infection.
What are the characteristics of diarrhea in babies?Diarrhea in babies is noticeable through the mushy, thin consistency of the stool. Liquid, splashing stool can also occur.
Diarrhea is one of the most common illnesses in babies and toddlers alike. Whether it is actually diarrhea depends on the age of the child. Diarrhea is the case in babies if they have liquid stools at least five times a day, whereas in small children this is only the case three times.
Diarrhea in babies is noticeable through the mushy, thin consistency of the stool. Liquid, splashing stool can also occur. If the diarrhea lasts two weeks, it is called acute diarrhea, but if it lasts longer, it is chronic diarrhea. Diarrhea is usually not a major problem in babies. However, if the child loses too much fluid, there is a risk of dehydration.
The main causes of diarrhea in babies are primarily viral and bacterial infections. Their occurrence is not unusual, because the child's immune system has to deal with a particularly large number of germs in the first lifetime, which in turn manifests itself in acute diarrhea. With a share of around 40 percent, the rotaviruses are the main triggers of acute intestinal infections.
The adenoviruses and noroviruses as well as bacterial strains such as Escherichia coli, staphylococci and salmonella are also well represented. However, there are other possible causes of diarrhea in the baby. These include intolerance to certain foods, food poisoning and side effects from drugs such as antibiotics.
In addition, underlying diseases such as a urinary tract infection, pneumonia or otitis media can also cause diarrhea. Chronic diarrhea is rare in babies. However, if the diarrhea persists, this can be an indication of diseases such as cystic fibrosis, Crohn's disease, celiac disease (gluten intolerance), ulcerative colitis, lactose intolerance or irritable bowel syndrome.
In the case of celiac disease, the baby suffers from variable diarrhea, which is accompanied by a badly bloated stomach. If you are lactose intolerant, there are other symptoms such as nausea and gas. Another possible symptom of diarrhea is fever.
Diseases with this symptom
- abdominal influenza
- Food intolerance
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Celiac disease
- Lactose intolerance
- Bacterial infection
- Food poisoning
- Drug allergy
- Rotavirus infection
- Salmonella poisoning
Diagnosis & course of disease
If a doctor has to be seen because of the diarrhea, he or she will need some information from the parents about the baby's symptoms.He would like to know how long the diarrhea started, what the consistency and color of the stool are, and whether relatives or other contact persons are also suffering from symptoms of diarrhea.
Taking medication is also important. The doctor weighs the baby to determine any weight loss. The child's abdomen is also palpated. It is also important to check the young patient's fluid balance. In some cases, stool culture can be useful. This happens if there is a suspicion of a certain illness or if a trip with the baby has been made beforehand.
As part of the examination, a stool sample from the child is placed in a plastic container, which is then examined in a laboratory. There the doctors analyze the sample for bacteria and parasites. If the diarrhea is severe, a sonography (ultrasound examination), a blood test or a colonoscopy (colonoscopy) can still be performed.
In most babies, acute diarrhea resolves on its own after a short time. If the baby only suffers from diarrhea, a sufficient intake of fluids is sufficient. During this period, breastfeeding babies should receive their mother's breast as often as possible.
Most adults hardly take short-term diarrhea seriously and are right, because with them it disappears on its own and usually does not leave any significant damage. Diarrhea is always serious in babies, however, because their bodies are much smaller and less mature and can therefore react very sensitively to even minor dehydration.
It is therefore advisable to always take diarrhea in babies seriously and to present the child to the pediatrician at the latest if the diarrhea has not improved on its own within hours. Otherwise, there is a risk that the baby's diarrhea will persist for the next few hours and become dangerously dehydrated, or that the cause is actually dangerous for the baby. Even a small gastrointestinal infection can be a dangerous disease for a baby, as the body can cope with far less dehydration than that of an adult.
Since the baby is certainly not doing well with diarrhea, another complication is that it refuses to eat or drink as a result. Older babies may no longer need to drink something every few hours, but this is still important for infants in the first few months of life. If infants with diarrhea can no longer be put on or if they refuse the bottle, a doctor must be consulted because this makes them even weaker and can no longer replace the lost fluid.
When should you go to the doctor?
Diarrhea is particularly common in babies and toddlers. And the younger the child is, the faster it dries up. Pediatricians recommend affected families to ask their pediatrician for advice at an early stage, especially in the case of a sick baby. If the diarrhea is accompanied by fever and vomiting, this can be an indication that medical treatment may be necessary.
A either sunken or tight fontanel (the opening in the cranial bone at the top of the baby's head) may indicate insufficient fluid intake or a serious infection in the little patient. If the sick infant screams shrilly and pulls its legs more and more towards its stomach, it may have abdominal pain, which a pediatrician should clarify, especially in connection with the existing diarrhea.
Sick infants who refuse to take in fluids belong in the competent care of a pediatrician as well as small patients who are noticeable with bloody stools. As a guide, when a baby with diarrhea should be examined by a doctor, the following rule applies: If an infant stops more than four watery diarrhea in 24 hours, or if diarrhea and vomiting do not improve after about six hours, the baby may need medical help.
It becomes dangerous at the latest when you lose ten percent of your body weight. The pediatrician now recommends inpatient care in the children's clinic. If the baby becomes seriously ill at night or on the weekend, the parents can contact the pediatrician emergency service or the emergency department of a children's clinic.
Doctors & therapists in your area
Treatment & Therapy
The most important point of treatment for a baby with diarrhea is to compensate for the loss of fluid, which is very high during this period. If the child receives substitute food instead of the mother's breast, it is recommended to give him thin tea with a little sugar and salt every six to eight hours. If the child is a little older, they will also get plenty of fluids instead of solid food.
Fennel tea or chamomile tea with a little salt and sugar are recommended. With the help of fruit juices such as apricot or banana and salted broths, the loss of electrolytes and nutrients can be compensated for. Following this, the child should be given foods that are low in fat and easy to digest.
Special electrolyte-glucose drinking solutions are also offered in the pharmacy. In addition to sugar and water, these contain all the important minerals. The solution should be administered as early as possible. For the appropriate degree of dilution, it is important to carefully follow the instructions for use of the solution.
If the diarrhea is caused by a food intolerance, the baby must avoid the triggering foods. If it is an allergy to cow's milk and the mother is still breastfeeding her child, it is advisable for her to avoid the milk as well. If, on the other hand, certain drugs are responsible for the diarrhea, they should be discontinued after consulting a doctor.
If the baby is already suffering from dehydration, it is important to supply him with fluids and electrolytes quickly. If necessary, the substances are administered through a nasogastric tube. In rare cases, the child is given an isotonic saline solution intravenously.
Outlook & forecast
Diarrhea in the baby combined with a fever suggests an infection. With an appropriate supply of fluids (water and tea) to balance the electrolyte balance and the loss of fluids, an improvement usually occurs after a very short time.
This also applies to diarrhea in the baby caused by medication or a trip or a changed environment. With a sufficient intake of fluids, symptoms usually improve quickly and go away completely in a day or two.
If the diarrhea in the baby lasts longer than six hours, the stool in a breastfed child is white, if the fever persists, vomiting, or a tense abdominal wall, a doctor is urgently required. It could be an infection. Poisoning from spoiled food is also possible. With appropriate medical treatment and hydration, the prognosis is very good and symptoms usually improve after a few days.
Diarrhea in babies without appropriate medical treatment can quickly have dramatic consequences, as the loss of fluids and salts can quickly lead to dehydration. In extreme cases, this leads to a circulatory collapse and can have fatal consequences.
Sometimes it is possible to prevent the baby from developing diarrhea. Numerous germs that cause gastrointestinal infections are transmitted as a result of a smear infection. Consistent hand washing in everyday situations can reduce the risk of infection. There is now an effective vaccination against Rota virus infection. Proper preparation and storage of food help prevent food poisoning.
You can do that yourself
The first reaction to diarrhea in the baby should be to take the child's body temperature. If they have a fever or vomiting in addition to diarrhea, the likelihood of an infection is high. In this case, an examination by a pediatrician should take place as soon as possible.
The baby's body loses a lot of fluids through diarrhea. For this reason, the child should drink a lot. Small amounts at short intervals are recommended. The salt balance must also be regulated. Infants should therefore continue to be breastfed. If the switch to bottle feeding has taken place, it is advisable not to use infant milk. Instead, a thin tea (preferably fennel or chamomile) should be given over a period of six to eight hours. To supplement the nutrients, the tea can be fortified with glucose and a little salt.
Alternatively, an electrolyte solution specially designed for small children and infants can be administered. It is available in powder form and can be dissolved in boiled water or tea. It is advisable to give the solution with the bottle, as this is the easiest way for the baby to ingest it. Special diarrhea food should only be given after consulting a doctor.
Hygiene is extremely important with diarrhea. Regular hand washing is essential in order to avoid infection. Activities such as changing diapers are associated with an increased risk of infection.