DESCRIPTIONAcute diarrhea is the passage of many loose, watery, or unformed bowel movements. This is a symptom, not a disease. The colon, small intestine, rectum, and skin around the rectum are involved.
Appropriate health care includes:
Self-care after diagnosis.
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications (if symptoms persist longer than 2 to 3 days).
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSCramping abdominal pain.
Loose, watery, or unformed bowel movements.
Lack of bowel control (sometimes).
Infections (viral, parasitic or bacterial).
Regional enteritis (See Glossary).
Disease or tumor of the pancreas (malignant or benign).
Foods, such as prunes or beans.
Excess alcohol consumption.
Use of drugs, such as laxatives, antacids, antibiotics, quinine, or anti-cancer drugs.
Radiation treatments for cancer.
Excess alcohol consumption.
Crowded or unsanitary living conditions.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCEIf diarrhea recurs in your child and a cause can be identified, treatment or avoidance of the cause should prevent recurrence.
Every child is likely to have bouts of diarrhea occasionally from insignificant causes that disappear and leave no lasting effects. Most cases of acute diarrhea last a short time, and a search for the cause may not be necessary.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Laboratory stool studies (for prolonged diarrhea).
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONSDehydration if diarrhea is prolonged, especially in infants.
Spontaneous recovery in 24 to 48 hours.
HOME CAREIf cramps are present, place hot compresses, a hot-water bottle, or an electric heating pad on the abdomen.
MEDICATIONFor minor discomfort, use non-prescription drugs such as Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
Decrease your child's activity until diarrhea stops.
DIET & FLUIDSIf diarrhea is accompanied by nausea, your child should suck ice chips only.
If your child is not nauseated, drinking small amounts of clear liquid, such as herbal tea, ginger ale, broth, or gelatin is helpful until diarrhea stops.
After symptoms disappear, serve the child soft foods, such as cooked cereal, rice, eggs, custard, baked potato, and yogurt, for 1 or 2 days.
Your child can resume a normal diet 2 or 3 days after the diarrhea stops, but fruit, alcohol, and highly seasoned foods should be avoided for several more days.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When signs of infection have decreased, appetite returns, and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Diarrhea lasts more than 48 hours.
Mucus, blood, or worms appear in the stool.
Fever rises to 101F (38.3C) or higher.
Severe pain develops in the child's abdomen or rectum.
Dehydration develops. Signs include: dry mouth, wrinkled skin, excess thirst, and little or no urination.