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Duke Medicine: Too much No. 2? When to worry

Posted January 17, 2011

When should parents worry about their child's frequent stools? Dr. Leon Reinstein of Duke Children's helps us to understand what we should consider when it comes to diarrhea in children.

Diarrhea is an increase in the number of bowel movements per day and an increase in the looseness of stools. Mild diarrhea may vary from one to three stools a day; severe diarrhea can consist of up to 20 stools a day.

In general, diarrhea is a common problem that may last only a few days and disappear on its own. It's usually related to a viral or bacterial gastroenteritis, an infection causing diarrhea, abdominal cramping, vomiting and fever.

When should you worry about diarrhea? You should always call your child’s physician if your child is less than six months of age or has other symptoms such as abdominal pain; blood in the stool; diarrhea for longer than two weeks; frequent vomiting; high fever; unable to eat or drink; and any signs of dehydration such as dry mouth, weight loss, extreme thirst and no tears when crying.

What are treatments for diarrhea? Treatment will be determined by your child’s physician. Most causes of diarrhea will not need treatment. It will depend on the age of your child and the cause of diarrhea. Treatment involves replacing lost fluids and is geared to prevent complication of dehydration.

Administration of anti-diarrhea medication is strongly discouraged. Antibiotics are used only in specific infections.

It is important to maintain oral hydration and a regular diet as much as possible. Avoid sodas or sports drinks. Give Pedialyte or Gatorade as alternatives.

Infant and children at times may require an admission to the hospital if unable to maintain adequate oral intake.

For more on tummy troubles in children and how to prevent them, read the full article on DukeHealth.org.

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