The most common problem faced by children is acute gastroenteritis or diarrhoea which means kids will have vomiting and loose motions. First I would like to emphasise on the severity of this disease. In developing countries like India this is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in children under 5 years of age. On an average 3.3 episodes per kid per year experience this disease. More than 20 lakh deaths occur per
year because of this and 80% occur in the first two years of age.

What is diarrhoea?

There are mainly two types of diarrhoeal disease: watery diarrhoea and dysentery. In dysentery along with watery stools child will pass blood and mucus too. When a kid passes more than 3 watery stools within 2 hours we call it diarrhoea and loose stool means it will take the shape of the container.

What are the consequences?

Dehydration is a life-threatening consequence and it can be prevented if treated at an early stage. This mainly happens when kids lose water and electrolyte (salt) from their body through stools. Malnutrition is one more consequence, as the food intake during this time is poor and absorption of
nutrients into the body is less.

How to manage it?

Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) is the best remedy that should be done at home to prevent kids landing into this stage of severe dehydration and shock which are life-threatening. Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) is therapy in which the child is given the following for quick recovery:

  • Coconut water
  • Solutions made from sugar and salt
  • Other water based solutions like lentil soup, buttermilk
  • Breast milk for infants

How to give the solutions to the child?

Give the solutions in small quantities and frequently, 5 to 10 ml in every 30 to 35 minutes gap and it can prevent severe dehydration. Along with this, supplements should be given for at least two weeks.
Age & Intake of solution (for large stool)
<6 months – 1 cup (50 ml)
7 months to 2 years – 50 to 100 ml
2 to 5 years – 100 to 200 ml
>5 years – As much as the child can take

How can you assess dehydration at

If the kid is restless or irritable, has sunken eyes, urine output is reduced, dull/lethargic, not able to drink then it is dehydration. The total duration of this illness may last from 3 to 7 days. Once the kid recovers, nutritional rehabilitation should be done, which can be done with one extra meal per day for the next 2 weeks to 1 month and it can gear up their nutrition and immunity level.

How to prevent diarrhoea?

  • Improving feeding practices
  • Maintaining good hygiene
  • Washing hands more often
  • Clean drinking water
  • On-time vaccination

Dr Madhavi Neela

Consultant Paediatrician
OMNI Hospitals, Kothapet



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