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What is Pediatric Diarrhea?

Article Details
  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Pediatric diarrhea is loose, watery, more frequent stools that are experienced by children. Like adults, children may develop diarrhea because of exposure to a virus or bacterium that makes them sick. Sometimes children may also develop diarrhea because they’ve eaten a food or consumed a drink that proved irritating to their digestive systems. In other cases, however, a case of pediatric diarrhea may develop because a child has a chronic condition for which diarrhea is a symptom. Usually, diarrhea is a short-term illness, which may go away on its own, but severe or chronic cases may require a doctor to intervene with medication and intravenous fluids.

Mild pediatric diarrhea is often manageable at home. It may be caused by a virus or bacterium in some case, but can also develop because a child consumes something that irritates his digestive system. For example, some children develop diarrhea after they've consumed too much juice or when they drink milk or eat other dairy products. Sometimes, however, diarrhea can be a sign of a serious condition, so parents are often advised to watch children for signs of dehydration, pain, high fever, fainting, and bleeding from the rectum. A parent may also do well to contact a doctor if there is pus or greenish mucus in his child's stools.

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Often, pediatric diarrhea is an acute illness, which usually means it lasts for two weeks or less. In most cases, diarrhea is either relatively mild or short-lived. In the case of mild diarrhea that lasts for less than three days, parents may be advised to care for their children at home by making sure they drink plenty of liquids in order to avoid dehydration. Parents may also give their children electrolyte drinks and frozen treats in the hopes of helping to prevent dehydration, but soups and broths may work for this purpose as well. Electrolytes are salts that are essential for health.

Sometimes pediatric diarrhea is severe or lasts for more than just a couple of days. In some cases, it may be accompanied by other troubling symptoms, such a high fever and severe abdominal pain. When a child has more than a mild case of diarrhea, a doctor may want to examine him and possibly prescribe medication, such as antibiotics, for treatment. Likewise, a doctor may recommended hospitalization for a child with severe diarrhea in order to administer intravenous fluids to either prevent dehydration or treat it if it has already developed.

When pediatric diarrhea is caused by an allergy, lactose intolerance, or a chronic illness, medical care may start with figuring out its underlying cause. To get to the root of the problem, doctors may take the affected child’s medical history and perform diagnostic tests. In some cases, especially when the problem is difficult to diagnose, doctors may even use the process of elimination to help them in diagnosing the cause of persistent diarrhea. Once the condition that is causing loose bowels has been identified, doctors may prescribe medications or recommend diet changes to treat it.

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