My baby has Diarrhea! Should we see a doctor?

Saturday, 18.06.2016

Beat the baby blues! This month, we talk to Dr Wong Chin Khoon of SBCC Baby and Child Clinic for his insights into yet another common baby health woe that first-time parents face – and we’re looking at Diarrhea – or loose stools – a baby ailment that can be really messy as well as worrying for parents.

Read on to find out the cause of this digestive condition, its symptoms, and what you can do if your baby suddenly ‘lets loose’, as advised by Dr Wong.

What is the cause of Loose Stools / Diarrhea?

Diarrhea or the frequent passage of loose stools may be an isolated symptom or may be associated with vomiting, fever and/or loss of appetite as part of acute gastroenteritis (GE).  The underlying cause is a virus transmitted from either an infected person or contaminated object (e.g. toys, utensils, cups).

According to Dr Wong, passing loose stools 6 to 8 times may be normal in a totally breastfed baby. So it is important to compare the frequency and consistency of the stools to his or her normal pattern.

Vomiting and diarrhea are the body’s way of getting rid of an infection or telling us that something is wrong. Infection by a virus is usually mild and should not last longer than 1 week.

How to manage the diarrhea?

The gold standard of treatment is maintenance of hydration and oral probiotic. The most important thing you need to know is that there is NO NEED to stop the diarrhea by giving anti-spasmodic medicine like in the adult!

Dr Wong advises that parents should in fact allow the diarrhea to run its course. The body is trying to purge out the unwanted waste, which takes an average of 2 to 4 days.

Your child should get better if he or she gets lots of rest, liquids, and good foods. Fever medication may be used (if the temperature exceeds 38°C) to enable your baby to feel more comfortable so that he can sleep and drink better.

Oral rehydration therapy

Oral rehydration therapy is another way to help your baby when he or she has vomiting or diarrhea.

An oral electrolyte solution (ORS) is a liquid that has exactly the right amount of water, sugar, and salts needed for rehydration. Water is not the ideal rehydration fluid as it does not have these ingredients.

You can buy the ORS in most pharmacies in one of these forms:  solution, power or effervescent tablet which needs to be dissolved in required amount of boiled water. The amount needed depends on the age and weight of your baby. Your baby’s appetite is often affected, so go slow and give small but frequent hydration fluid.

Dr Wong also reminds parents that your baby’s bottom needs extra care too!

Ensure timely change of diapers and be more liberal in your use of diaper barrier cream to prevent diaper rash.

When should you seek medical attention?

The warning signs can be different for each child. Watch your child closely. Pay attention to things that you think are different about your child’s usual behavior.

Your baby should see a doctor if he or she has ANY of the warning signs for serious vomiting or diarrhea as follows:

  • Not willing to drink at all
  • No tears when crying
  • Vomiting often for more than 4 to 6 hours
  • Sunken eyes
  • More than 6 large, watery diarrheas in 1 day
  • Stomach pain that is severe and does not stop
  • Less than 5 wet diapers in 1 day
  • Fast breathing
  • Dry skin, mouth, and tongue
  • Very sleepy or very fussy
  • Cool or grayish skin
  • Green or coffee ground vomits
  • Blood in the vomit or diarrhea
  • Bringing the knees up to stomach and crying (suggesting severe tummy ache)
  • Fever over 39°C, or 102.2°F, for longer than 12 hours
  • Sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on your child’s head if he or she is less than 18 months old) 

We hope that you have benefited from this little health tip. Remember to consult your healthcare professional for medical advice.

About Dr Wong Chin Khoon MBBS (S’pore),
MMED Paediatrics (S’pore), FAMS

Private Paediatrician currently practicing at SBCC Baby and Child Clinic located at 26 Jalan Membina #01-05 Singapore 161026  

Dr Wong headed the Children’s Emergency at National University Hospital when it started the service in 2002, before moving on to Department of Emergency Medicine, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital serving as Senior Consultant in 2006. He was also the Senior Consultant, Contingency & Scenario Planning Division, Ops Group at Ministry of Health from 2008 – 2010. Dr Wong was awarded the HMDP training award (Paediatric Emergency, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada) in 2001. He remains amongst only a handful of paediatricians who has received formal training in the field of Paediatric Emergency in Singapore. Dr Wong was also awarded the EXSA (Excellence Service) Award (Silver) in 2008.

This article first appeared on Mummys Market Expert Tips.

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