Learn common causes and symptoms of irritable bowels in young children, and how to best treat diarrhea.
-Diarrhea is when your child has frequent loose watery bowel movements that we all call poops. However, it is important to know that children's bowel movement patterns can vary tremendously. So, to know whether your child has diarrhea, you need to compare your child's bowel movements now with those before your child became sick. It is also important to notice any differences in the consistency of the stool or his poop and to consider the age of your child. A young infant normally can have many loose bowel movements each and everyday. But in an older child, the same number of bowel movements may be abnormal. Older children also tend to have harder, more formed stools. So, here is what you really have to know and do. The most important cause of diarrhea in a child is gastroenteritis, a viral infection of the stomach and intestines. Other causes may be food poisoning or allergic reactions to food or other things. Even taking some types of medicines like an antibiotic can give children diarrhea. So, when is diarrhea really serious? Diarrhea can be serious when there's lots of blood in the stool. If there is, see the doctor immediately or if the diarrhea is accompanied by severe pain in the abdomen or the belly or the child has a high fever, see the doctor right away. Another serious situation is when there are signs of dehydration. These include listlessness, exhaustion, sunken eyes, dry lips or mouth, or not making much urine for more than 4 to 6 hours if your child's a baby or more than 6 to 8 hours in an older child. Remember, young children especially infants less than 6 months of age can become dehydrated much more quickly than older children. Again, if the child seems dehydrated, go to the doctor immediately. To get a good sense of what a child with dehydration looks like, click on the links. There are a couple other situations involving diarrhea that you should keep an eye on. Make an appointment with a doctor if your child has diarrhea and a fever for more than 3 days. If your child has had a mild diarrhea lasting more than a week or if your child has a fever after returning home from a trip out of the country, make an appointment with the doctor. Also, make an appointment with a doctor if there is pus or mucus in the stools or if the diarrhea is accompanied by the child is your child's behavior or your child's appetite or she seems to just be losing weight. You can review any of these conditions by clicking on the link called when to seek medical advice. And if you're unsure of your child's condition, call the doctor. So, how do you treat diarrhea? I won't go through what you should do here because different aged children require slightly different treatments, but be sure to click on the link called home treatment. But in all cases, please make sure your child drinks enough fluids. And if you're not sure or you need to know more, don't ever hesitate to call your doctor's office.