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By Health Promotion Board in collaboration with Dr. Yvonne Ng, Senior Consultant, Department of Neonatology, National University Hospital.

Diarrhoea refers to the frequent passing of loose and watery stools. If your baby is pooping more than he usually does, and his stools are more watery than usual, then he might be having a bout of diarrhoea.

Your little one may also experience fever, abdominal pain, poor appetite, and vomiting. Diarrhoea usually lasts 2 to 4 days. Occasionally, it may last 1 to 2 weeks.

You may have come across the word “gastroenteritis”; this implies that the diarrhoea is caused by an infection of the intestines by viruses or bacteria.

Should you be worried about diarrhoea? A major problem with diarrhoea is dehydration. This occurs when your baby has not drunk enough fluids to replace fluid loss from diarrhoea and vomiting.

Related: Common Childhood Conditions—Diarrhoea

What Should Mum and Dad Do?

It is very important to continue feeding your baby and ensuring that he is properly hydrated. Breastfeed/bottle-feed your baby with small and frequent breast milk/formula throughout the day.

You may also consult the doctor who will give your baby oral rehydration solutions to replace water and salts lost, and who may prescribe medications to reduce baby's diarrhea episodes.

Do not self-medicate your baby with anti-diarrhoea medicine, unless it has been prescribed by a doctor. The majority of children with gastroenteritis do not need any medication.

Causes of diarrhoea

  • Viruses are usually responsible for gastroenteritis, the most common being rotavirus, which can be prevented with a vaccine.
  • Diarrhoea can also be caused by bacteria such as salmonella, campylobacter or shigella.
  • Excessive intake of fruit juice or sweetened drinks
  • Lactose intolerance. This happens when your baby continues to have watery diarrhea (after recovering from a bout of gastroenteritis). The doctor may advise you to switch him to a lactose-free milk. Don’t worry, your little one will recover in a few days, and he will be able to digest lactose and drink milk again.

Related: Viral Gastroenteritis

When Should I See the Doctor?

Bring your baby to your pediatrician immediately if you see the following signs:

  • Your baby has continuous bouts of diarrhoea and vomiting, and is unable to drink enough fluids
  • Dehydration
    • Dry skin, mouth, and tongue
    • Less frequent urination
    • Crying without tears
    • Sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on top of baby’s head, if your baby is younger than 18 months)
  • Signs of underlying disease:
    • Green vomit
    • Stools contain a lot of mucus and blood
    • Severe abdominal pain
    • Abdomen distension (bloating)
  • Signs of serious disease:
    • Lethargy
    • Cool hands and feet, clammy skin
    • Shallow or laboured breathing
    • High fever (38.0 degrees Celsius and above)


References

  1. Diarrhoea (Child). Retrieved November 2018 from https://www.singhealth.com.sg/PatientCare/ConditionsAndTreatments/Pages/Diarrhoea-Child.aspx