Diarrhea can be an unpleasant occurrence at any age and can be a cause of concern if it occurs in infants because they are more susceptible to getting dehydrated due to the loss of fluid in a short time. Research shows breastfed babies have a lesser tendency to have diarrhea than those on formula feed. A study done on 150 infants published that only 27% of those on breastfeed had frequent bouts of diarrhea compared with 72% of those on formula feed.(1)
Causes of Infant Diarrhea
Babies tend to get diarrhea on being breastfed, on taking formula milk, or both reasons. The causes of diarrhea in infants are as follows:
Gastroenteritis: This is a viral infection and the most common cause of diarrhea in infants. It is often accompanied by vomiting. This condition is also known as a stomach bug or stomach flu and clears up after a few days on its own. It can cause dehydration quickly as the child experiences both diarrhea and vomiting.
Diet Changes: The parents often give choices of solid foods to the infant. The digestive system may react to this transition and lead to diarrhea.
Medication: Sometimes medication for some other illness may cause diarrhea due to the side effect.
Breastfeed: This can be a cause of diarrhea when the parent breastfeeding the child takes antibiotics that pass through the milk to the baby. Also, when the parent changes the diet, it can irritate the child’s digestive system, and the child may experience diarrhea.
b A child allergic to formula feed may experience diarrhea. Also, being lactose intolerant can be another cause of diarrhea in a child.
Symptoms of Infant Dehydration from Diarrhea
Dehydration is the most important thing to watch out for when a child has diarrhea. This happens due to the loss of excess fluid. This can lead to numerous complications.
According to the National Childbirth Trust in the United Kingdom, infants have the highest risk of developing dehydration.(2) Also, those with low birth weight carry a higher risk of dehydration.
Signs of mild to moderate dehydration in infants include:(3)
- Soft spot, or fontanel on the infants head
- Dark yellow urine
- No or few tears while crying
- Less frequent urine
- Dry mouth and lips
Severe dehydration symptoms in infant include:(4)
- Sunken eyes
- Excessive sleepiness
- Little or no urine
- Lack of activity
- Extreme fussiness
- Rapid breathing
- Discoloration of hands and feet
- Fast heart rate
- Wrinkling of the skin
Managing Infant Diarrhea
Diarrhea in infant resolve on its own, but there are a few things that can be done to make the child feel more comfortable. Steps can be taken to prevent dehydration in infants as they are more at risk of it.
Keep the infant dehydrated regardless of they are breastfeeding or on formula feed. They should be given feeds frequently. One can also ask the pediatrician if the child can be given oral rehydration solution or not.
Change diapers more frequently than usual and keep the child as clean and dry as possible. It is recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology to apply diaper cream containing zinc oxide.(5)
An infant should never be given over-the-counter prescription medication. A pediatrician should be consulted for proper guidance.
When to Contact a Doctor?
A doctor should always be contacted for infant diarrhea if the child is below 6 months of age. Also, if the following symptoms are noticed, a doctor should be informed:
- Decreased urine output
- Dry mouth
- Fewer tears
- Sunken soft spot
- Child being sleepier than usual
- Blood in the diarrhea
- Lack of energy
- Weight loss
One should seek emergency care if the child is weaker and not moving or the caregiver thinks there is a risk to life.
Diarrhea is most common in infants and resolves on its own. It is important to watch for the signs and symptoms of dehydration and to not delay emergency care if any kind of risk to life is noticed.
- Diarrhea: Causes, Symptoms, Home Remedies For Adults and Children, Prevention Tips
- What to Eat During Diarrhea?
- What to Do to Stop Diarrhea Naturally?
- What is Burning Diarrhea, Know Its Causes, Management, Treatment
- How To Stop Diarrhea Quickly?
- What Can Cause Sudden Diarrhea and Can It Be Serious?
- What Causes Diarrhea After Drinking Alcohol and How To Prevent It?