What is it?
Diarrhoea occurs when very loose and frequent stools are passed.
Symptoms: Passing of runny, watery faeces abnormally frequently. Cramp-like abdominal pain which comes and goes in waves. Sometimes associated with vomiting.
Causes: Food poisoning, viral infection, antibiotics, stress, nervousness or excitement. In children. Food allergy may also be a cause of diarrhoea.
Treatment in the home
Adults: Increase fluid intake. Drink plenty of flat coke, ginger ale or diluted apple juice. Do not eat solid foods for 24 hours. When you start eating again, avoid fatty foods, coffee and milk-these can aggravate the symptoms. Antidiarrhoel medicines are available from your pharmacy. Take in recommended doses.
Babies and children: Diarrhoea in babies and young children can be very serious, because they cannot survive much fluid loss. They need to be watched very carefully.
- Discontinue the baby or child’s usual feed.
- Increase fluid intake. Prepare a suitable sterile solution by adding two tablespoonfuls of sugar and half a teaspoon of table salt to one litre of boiling water. Alternatively you can buy sachets or rehydration powder from your pharmacy. Add this to boiling water to make up the correct solution
Possible complications: Dehydration
When to consult a doctor
Adults: If diarrhoea persists for more than 48 hours, If abdominal pain and vomiting is present, If there is blood in the stools.
Children: If the child is under 9 months old and the diarrhoea last for more than half a day. If the child has a temperature, looks ill or unnaturally sleepy. If the child is vomiting. If the child is well, but diarrhoea does not clear up.
A child who has persistent, severe diarrhoea may very quickly lose a dangerous amount of body fluid particularly if he is vomiting as well. If your child shows any signs of dehydration, consult your doctor without delay.
Signs of dehydration: Thirst, dry mouth, fast breathing, sunken eyes, and reduction in the frequency and amount of urine passed.
What the doctor may do: Prescribe an antidiarrhoeal to slow down the bowel activity. Arrange a stool test to establish the cause of the infection. A child who is showing signs of dehydration will be admitted to hospital and given fluids and vital chemicals by intravenous drip.