Having diarrhea is no fun. It can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Almost all children will have diarrhea once or twice a year, but luckily, most cases of diarrhea are not serious.
What Causes Diarrhea in Children?
The most common cause of diarrhea in children is due to gastrointestinal infections. Bacteria, viruses, and parasites can all cause diarrhea.
Most bacterial outbreaks of diarrhea in America are due to food poisoning. Toxins made by bacteria stored in food that is not cooked, stored, or handled properly can make a child sick. Common bacteria that many parents have heard of that can cause diarrhea in children include Salmonella, Shigella, and E. coli.
Viruses are highly contagious. When children stay in close quarters with other people such as in school, daycare, and dorms, these viruses can easily pass from child to child. Common viruses that many parents have heard of that can cause diarrhea include Norwalk virus, rotavirus, and adenovirus.
Parasites can spread through water parks and pools because they are resistant to chlorine treatment. Contaminated lakes and streams are another source of parasites. Common parasites that cause diarrhea in children include Giardia and Cryptosporidium.
What Are the Symptoms?
- Urgent rush to use the bathroom
- Watery poop
- Abdominal cramping
- Gas and bloating
- Nausea and vomiting
Children with diarrhea will usually have symptoms for a few days and then the diarrhea will resolve.
Are There Concerning Signs and Symptoms?
Yes. If you notice any of the following symptoms, your child should see their physician as soon as possible:
- Blood in the poop
- Weight loss
- Diarrhea that last longer than two weeks
How Is Diarrhea Treated?
Most infections that cause diarrhea will go away without any treatment because your child’s healthy immune system will fight the infection! Keep your child well hydrated and keep in close contact with your child’s physician.
If your child has concerning symptoms, then your child’s physician may order a stool test to determine the cause of the diarrhea and the specific treatment that needs to be started.
How Can I Prevent My Child from Having Diarrhea?
- Handwashing! Handwashing is the number one way to prevent the spread of infectious illnesses. Have your child always wash their hands after using the restroom and before eating meals and snacks. Wash hands with soap and water. Dirty hands and finger nails carry germs into the body and onto others.
- Wash raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them.
- Do not eat undercooked meat and refrigerate leftover food. Nasty bacteria can start to grow even after only a few hours of food sitting on the counter!
- Do not drink water from lakes or streams.
- Do not wash your pet in the same sink you use to cook meals.
Diarrhea can be uncomfortable, but it is usually short lived. Please contact your child’s doctor if you are concerned about your child’s diarrhea.