Acute and Chronic Diarrhea in Children

What is diarrhea?

Diarrhea is something that most children will experience at some point in their lifetime. Diarrhea is not some rare thing to be embarrassed about, and it is not necessarily cause for alarm. Although the medical definition of diarrhea is more more exact, diarrhea is typically considered to be an increased frequency or a decreased consistency of bowel movements. Diarrhea is a condition that is characterized by loose or watery stool and frequent bowel movements. This happens because more fluid passes through the colon than can be absorbed. It is typically brought about by GI infections caused by parasites, viruses, or bacteria. There are two types of diarrhea, acute and chronic.

What causes diarrhea?

Diarrhea is often caused by contamination and poor hygiene. Infectious germs can be spread from person to person, though objects, or through food or water. This can include, but is not limited to, things such as

  • Food contamination
  • Water contamination
  • Not washing hands
  • Not cleaning dishes or surfaces
  • Direct contact with fecal matter
  • Pets
  • Food intolerance
  • Illness

Acute diarrhea

Acute diarrhea is a common problem that typically goes away on its own in a few days. It can however last as long as 1 to 2 weeks. The most common cause of acute diarrhea is a viral infection, however acute diarrhea can also be cause by bacterial infections, parasitic infections, or other less common causes.

Chronic diarrhea

Chronic diarrhea typically lasts longer than 2 to 3 weeks. It can be continual or it can come and go. It’s possible for chronic diarrhea to run its course on its own, but it could also indicate a more serious disease or disorder, and require medical attention. Chronic diarrhea can be cause by infections, allergies or intolerance to food, GI disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, or other issues. It’s possible for chronic diarrhea to get in the way of your child’s development or cause other health problems. If your child experiences diarrhea for an extended period of time, consult a pediatrician.

What you can do to keep your child safe.

Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and malabsorption. Here are a few things that you can do to help keep your child safe and healthy.

  • Washing hands and practicing good hygiene can greatly reduce the risk of diarrheal infections.
  • Keep surfaces clean, especially in bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables, properly store food, and make sure that meats are completely cooked.
  • Keep dishes and eating utensils clean.
  • Only drink from water sources that you know are safe and potable. Never drink from rivers, ponds, streams, etc. without filtering and purifying the water first.
  • Keep pet dishes and people dishes separate. Don’t wash the dog bowl in the kitchen sink.
  • Be aware of which foods cause diarrhea for your child.
  • Talk to your child’s pediatrician. Keep your child’s pediatrician informed, so that they can help ensure that your child stays healthy. Start today, schedule your child’s next visit!