A child has diarrhea when stools are more watery and more frequent than usual. Diarrhea can be accompanied by fever and vomiting. In children, diarrhea and vomiting can cause dehydration. To prevent dehydration you should give your child an oral rehydration solution.
How to Rehydrate
Rehydration Phase (first 6 hours)You should give your child oral rehydration solution according to his weight and degree of dehydration. These rehydration solutions contain the right amounts of water, salts and sugars. They are sold in pharmacies under the brand names Pedialyte, Gastrolyte and Lytren and are available in liquid form or as popsicles.
Your role in the next few hours will be very important
In order for rehydration to work you must give your child the rehydration solution in small doses every 2 to 5 minutes (like feeding soup).
Overly sweet drinks (Kool-Aid, Gatorade, drinks made with Jello, or soft drinks), broth, rice water or homemade rehydration solutions should not be given to a child. They do not contain adequate quantities of water, mineral salts or sugar. These drinks may aggravate your child’s condition.
Diarrhea OnlyWhen your child has diarrhea only, continue his normal diet and give him oral rehydration solution.
If you are breastfeeding: Continue breastfeeding as usual and give your child rehydration solution between feedings to replace the loss of fluids caused by diarrhea.
If you’re not breastfeeding: Continue your child’s normal diet and give a rehydration solution according to the chart in the following section.
Diarrhea and Vomiting
When your child has diarrhea and vomitingIf you are breastfeeding: Increase the frequency of feedings but reduce the feeding time, in addition to giving your child oral rehydration solution according to the following chart.
If you are not breastfeeding: Stop your child’s normal diet and give 15 ml of rehydration solution every 15 minutes until vomiting stops, then give rehydration solution according to your child’s age (see chart in the following section).
Recovery phase (from 6 to 24 hours)After being dehydrated, children should eat as soon as possible because this will allow the bowel to return to normal more quickly, as well as stop the diarrhea.
Continue to give rehydration solution until the diarrhea is less frequent and/or vomiting has stopped. Your child can return to his usual diet by eating small portions of food frequently throughout the day, but it is preferable to avoid very fatty foods (pizza, fast food, etc.) or very sweet foods (cakes, cookies, etc.)
IMPORTANT: Do not give your child medications to fight diarrhea or vomiting; they can actually cause more harm than good.
When should you consult a doctor?
– Reduced urine output:
Less than 6 months old: less than 4 diapers in 24 hours
More than 6 months old: no urine over an 8- to 10-hour period
– No tears
– Dry mouth and tongue
– Greyish skin
– Sunken eyes or sunken soft spot
Washing your hands after handling your child’s stools is an important step in the fight against infection.
Suggested amounts of oral rehydration solution
Give 90-125 mL (3 to 4 fluid ounces) rehydration solution per hour