Diarrhoeas are normally caused by a viral or bacterial infection and are frequently self-limited (that is, they cure without any specific treatment) within two to four days.
Often Diarrhoea is accompanied by vomiting and it is then called "gastroenteritis" (this means inflamation of the stomach and bowels). Sometimes it gives the appearance that the infection is going down the digestive tube: the child begins vomiting and the next day diarrhoea appears. There may be fever (temperature over 38ºC).
Diarrhoea is usually acid. Therefore, the skin of the perianal area and buttocks gets irritated. It is important to change the babies' nappies often; a barrier or moisturising cream or ointment may be used in the affected area.
Diarrhoea may be dangerous in the sense that the child looses fluids and minerals and gets dehydrated. On the longer term, he might also get short of nutrients (malnutrition). Therefore the treatment is based on the replacement of this loss of fluids, minerals and nutrients while we wait for the spontaneous remission.
Antibiotics are seldom used, but on rare occasions the need is first explored after doing a stool culture. The vast majority of diarrhoeas do usually cure with diet and proper fluid intake.
Adult anti-diarrhoeals should not be given to children, as they are usually opioid substances, and their use could make things worse than the problem itself. In any case, an anti-diarrhoeal should never be given to a child unless it is prescribed by a doctor.
One of the frequent reasons in the persistency of diarrhoea is the so called astringent diet: poor in fats and proteins therefore it does not supply enough nutrients to allow the recovery of the bowels.
Another cause can be Giardia Lamblia, a microscopic bug that needs a specific treatment.
Of course there are other causes presented by parasites, food allergies or bowel problems.
When a child is definitely not well and loses weight, the advice of a doctor should be sought for without delay.
The treatment for diarrhoea is to avoid dehydration
Children should be made to drink as much water as they want and, the more abundant the stools are the more a child should drink water or rehydrating salts.
If the child also vomits one should keep giving him fluids but, in this case, a couple of sips every ten minutes or so instead of a whole glass at once. If the child looks poorly, does not want to drink or vomits whatever he is given, then he should be taken to emergency and attempt to give him fluids if kept waiting.
Breast feeding for babies should not be interrupted. Babies should be kept fed and given fluids in between.