Diarrhea and vomiting are common in children in Pakistan. This is primarily because of exposure to contaminated food and water. The severity of diarrhea and vomiting can vary from mild to life threatening. It is therefore important that these illnesses are properly managed and treated.
The dangerous thing in diarrhea is the associated dehydration. While children have reserves of food in their body (body fat), they have very little store of water. So if they develop diarrhea and loose water, they very quickly can become dehydrated.
The only way to prevent dehydration when the child is having diarrhea is to give extra water which makes up for all the water lost. This extra water can either be given by mouth in the form of ORS or Pedialyte, or it can be given intravenously through the drip. Our preference is always to give it by mouth first if the child takes it.
If your child develops diarrhea, bring ORS or Pedialyte home and give it to the child frequently, specially after every stools. If the child is throwing up as well, do not hold back on ORS or Pedialyte. Give small amounts (2-3 ounces) of ORS or Pedialyte but give it frequently, after every ten minutes. Do not hold back on solid food if the child wants it, but do not force it either. Remember that liquid intake is much more important during diarrhea than solid intake.
If child is not tolerating liquids by mouth, or if the stool output is much greater than the liquid intake, then your child may need intravenous drip. If the child is lethargic and looking sick despite your attempts of giving ORS, the child probably needs to be evaluated for the need for IV drip. Please consult your child's doctor or the Emergency room if there are any concerns.
Remember that medicines to immediately stop the diarrhea are not safe and should not be given to children. Antibiotics also in general do not have a role in acute diarrhea, unless there is blood in stools. Your doctor may prescribe zinc supplement during diarrhea, which is shown to decrease the duration of diarrhea and prevent recurrence.