Infant care: Diarrhea and vomiting

Diarrhea and vomiting are issues that can occur in infants. The stool of infants changes in consistency from week to week or even on a daily basis. Those who are breastfed have runny poo that does not smell while formula-fed infants have dark brown, firm and smelly stools.

Diarrhea involves frequent passage of watery stools whether breastfed or formula-fed. This can be triggered by an infection that can also cause the child to vomit. This condition is called gastroenteritis which is due to a virus specifically rotavirus. The condition is quite common among formula-fed infants.

Family members should carefully wash hands regularly using warm running water and liquid soap. It is also vital to dry their hands as well. This must be observed if a family member has gastroenteritis. In addition, always keep toilets clean and wash towels frequently. For formula-fed infants, always make sure that the bottles are sterilized carefully. If worried about diarrhea or vomiting, seek medical care.

Potential risks of diarrhea and vomiting in infants

Always bear in mind that diarrhea and vomiting are more serious among infants than older children. Infants can quickly lose too much fluid from their bodies and end up dehydrated.

Diarrhea and vomiting

Always bear in mind that diarrhea and vomiting are more serious among infants than older children.

If a child is dehydrated, he/she becomes irritable or lethargic and has dry mouth along with pale, sagging or mottled skin. The eyes and fontanelle (soft spot in the head) appear sunken as well.

Dehydration can lead to other effects such as diminished passage of urine. There is also appetite loss and the child will have cold feet and hands. In case a child becomes dehydrated, more fluids are needed. You can provide oral rehydration fluids that are readily available in drugstores or consult a doctor for advice.

How to manage diarrhea and vomiting in infants

  • Provide the child with additional fluids. You can provide oral rehydration fluids in between feedings or after each episode of watery stool.
  • Do not stop giving the infant milk. Just remember to provide additional fluids as an addition to the milk.
  • Ensure that all family members wash their hands on a regular basis using warm water and soap to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Avoid sharing towels

Consult a doctor if the infant passes 6 or more watery stools in the past 24 hours or if the infant vomited 3 times or more. In case the infant appears unwell such as feverish, less responsive or not passing urine or the vomiting lasts for more than a day, consult a doctor right away.

Toddlers and older children

Some children between 1-5 years old pass frequent loose, smelly stools that might include recognizable foods such as peas and carrots. In most cases, these children are otherwise healthy and normally growing and there is no known cause. This form of diarrhea is called as toddler diarrhea.

The diarrhea typically lasts for 5-7 days and it stops within 2 weeks. The vomiting can often last for 1-2 days and stops within 3 days in most children. A doctor should be consulted for advice if it takes longer or if the symptoms of dehydration are present.

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