The Dangers of Diarrhea in Children

The Dangers of Diarrhea in Children

Kids tend to get diarrhea more often than adults. These frequent loose or watery bowel movements that differ from your child’s normal pattern can be concerning to you as a parent and extremely uncomfortable for your little one. 

An occasional bout of diarrhea or loose stools is to be expected. It may be due to a new food, too much juice, or a temporary medication like an antibiotic. But if diarrhea persists or is severe, it can cause complications – especially in young children. 

Here’s what our experienced pediatric team at Penguin Pediatrics — with offices in Ashburn and Stone Ridge, Virginia — want you to know about diarrhea in your child. We also want you to stay on the watch for possible complications.

Complications of diarrhea

Everyone knows what diarrhea is, and adults experience it, too. Young children can experience complications quickly from serious diarrhea.

The biggest concern with diarrhea is dehydration. Mild dehydration is a loss of fluid, but moderate or severe dehydration can put excess stress on a child’s heart and lungs. In the worst cases, it can lead to life-threatening symptoms like brain damage, seizures, and shock.

How to know if your child is dehydrated

Diarrhea can lead to dehydration quickly in children, sometimes in less than one day.

If your child has diarrhea, watch for the following signs of dehydration:

You can monitor for these signs of dehydration, but at Penguin Pediatrics, we can determine for sure if your child is dehydrated. Our pediatricians can also determine how severe the dehydration is and offer the best rehydration treatments that may include IV fluids. Drugs to stop diarrhea are not recommended in young children. 

Always contact our office if you notice that your child can’t or won’t drink for several hours, has a high fever, has blood in their stool, or has had diarrhea for several days. 

Causes of acute diarrhea

You may notice that your child loses their appetite, vomits, loses weight, has rashes, or has a fever along with diarrhea. 

These symptoms can signal a gastrointestinal viral or bacterial infection like rotavirus, Salmonella, or Giardia. These infections can last 5-14 days, so it’s important that you offer plenty of fluid to prevent dehydration. 

Give your infant additional breast milk or an oral rehydration solution. Water doesn’t usually have enough electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and other nutrients, to fully rehydrate children. 

Avoid giving your child sports drinks, soda, or undiluted juice. These solutions contain a whole lot of sugar and can often make diarrhea worse. 

Older children may benefit from rehydration with water or products that have a name ending in “-lyte.” Popsicles can also be a fun way to keep older children hydrated. 

Other causes of diarrhea in children

Diarrhea isn’t always a result of a stomach bug, or gastroenteritis. If your child has chronic diarrhea, defined as persisting for 3 weeks or longer, it could be due to food allergies, lactose intolerance, or medical problems like celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease. 

At Penguin Pediatrics, we can diagnose and manage these conditions to help normalize your child’s bowel movements. 

If you’re concerned about your child’s diarrhea and hydration levels, call one of our offices or use the online booking tool to make an appointment for a sick visit.

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