Childhood Diarrhea: Common Causes and When to Seek Medical Care

If your child is suffering from diarrhea, it’s not usually a cause for serious concern. Most cases of loose, watery stool resolve on their own within 1-2 days. However, loose stools that persist for several days or that are accompanied by other worrisome symptoms require evaluation by a medical professional.

At Penguin Pediatrics, the health of your child is important to us. If you’re concerned about your child’s diarrhea and possible complications, don’t hesitate to contact our office. Our friendly staff can help you determine if you should bring your son or daughter in right away for a sick visit, or they can coach you on at-home remedies to make sure your child is as comfortable as possible.

Here are scenarios that indicate your child’s diarrhea needs medical attention. You can call us and request an appointment with Dr. Umesh Kodu as soon as possible.

Your child’s diarrhea doesn’t improve after 24 hours

Most cases of diarrhea, due to a stomach bug or something your child ate, resolve within a day or two. If your child’s diarrhea persists or worsens, contact our office right away.

Your child seems dehydrated

If your child isn’t taking much liquid by mouth and has gone three or more hours without producing a wet diaper or using the restroom, it could be a sign of dehydration – a potentially serious side effect of diarrhea. Other signs are a dry mouth, no tears when they cry, and skin that doesn’t retract back to flat quickly when pinched and released.

Mild dehydration can be resolved with oral rehydration solutions, such as Pedialyte, that are available at grocery stores and drugstores. 

Water alone isn’t enough to rehydrate a child who’s dehydrated, as it’s missing important nutrients – namely the electrolytes of sodium and potassium  -- lost through diarrhea.

If your child is severely dehydrated, Dr. Kodu may recommend your child receives IV fluids to restore their fluid and electrolyte levels.

Your child has a high fever

A fever greater than 102°F could indicate a serious bacterial or viral infection. Make an appointment to have them evaluated right away.

Your child has bloody or black stools

Blood-streaked or black stools indicate possible intestinal bleeding, which needs to be evaluated right away.

Your child is unresponsive or unusually drowsy

It makes sense that if your child is feeling under the weather, they may be sleepy or irritable. But if the irritability and sleepiness seems excessive or unusual for them, call our office. We may recommend you bring them in for evaluation just to make sure the diarrhea isn’t resulting from something serious.

Your child’s cheeks, belly, or eyes appear sunken

A sunken, pale, and overall sickly appearance indicates possible dehydration. Plus, if the diarrhea has been quite severe or it’s gone on for several days, your child could be suffering from nutrient deficiencies. Make an appointment to come in as soon as possible.

You know your child, and if any of their symptoms seem “off,” unusual, or serious to you, it’s best to call Penguin Pediatrics and have them evaluated. You’d much rather be safe when it comes to your child’s health.

We have an on-call nurse to answer questions for you, even when the office is closed. If you have concerns about your child’s diarrhea or other urgent symptoms, contact one of our offices in Ashburn or Stone Ridge, Virginia, right away.

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