What is Diarrhoea?
Diarrhoea otherwise known as ‘Fiji belly’ is when you have to keep going to the toilet to pass loose, watery bowel motions (coka, poos, number twos). Often it makes you feel that you need to go to the toilet urgently and your bowel motion may be explosive.
In babies it is normal for breastfeeding babies to have looser stools than formula fed babies.
What causes Diarrhoea?
Diarrhoea is usually only a short-term issue and is caused by an infection or reaction to certain foods. It can also be caused by a virus or a parasite.
However diarrhoea that lasts for longer than 2-3 days could indicate a medical problem such as irritable bowel syndrome, Malabsorption, food intolerance, Chrones Disease or colitis.
Rotavirus is a common cause of diarrhoea in Fijian Children. Between 2004-2008 diarrhoea caused by rotavirus was the number one killer of children aged 28 days to 4 years. Make sure your child receives their rotavirus vaccination to protect them at 6 weeks and 14 weeks.
When should I start to worry about my child’s diarrhoea?
For some young children diarrhoea is just part of normal growth and they will quickly recover from it. However if your child has any of the following symptoms, it is time to visit a doctor or health centre.
- Diarrhoea and vomiting at the same time
- Very watery diarrhoea, diarrhoea that contains blood, or that lasts for longer than 2 days
- The child develops a rash
- Severe or continuous stomach ache
How do I treat diarrhoea?
Most cases of diarrhoea should pass with a day or two but here are a few tips to make your child more comfortable;
- For tummy cramps try a hot water bottle or wheat pack on their tummy or take some paracetamol (such as Panadol)
- If they develop a rash, use coconut oil, zinc or castor oil ointment- making sure the skin is clean and dry before applying
- Avoid painkillers containing aspirin, ibuprofen and diclofenac (e.g. Nurofen, Nomopain and Disprin) as these can cause diarrhoea
- Some medication such as immodium can help stop diarrhoea but this means your body can’t get rid of the bacteria or virus that caused the diarrhoea so avoid them if possible
How can I make sure my child doesn’t get dehydrated?
For any child with diarrhoea it’s important to make sure they don’t become dehydrated, especially in babies as they can easily lose too much water.
- Signs of dehydration are not passing urine or passing dark urine with a strong smell.
- They may also become lethargic or irritable
- Have a dry mouth
- Have loose, pale or mottled skin
- Their eyes may become sunken
- They may lose their appetite and have cold hands and feet.
How can I treat dehydration?
- Start with clear fluids such as water, bu (baby coconut), clear soups or oral rehydration solutions.
- Aim for two to three litres per day
- Avoid drinks containing lots of sugar such as soft drink, juice, tang, and sports drinks – these can make your diarrhoea worse
- Avoid high fibre foods (e.g. legumes), whole fruits (except bananas) and vegetables, spicy or fatty foods, alcohol and caffeine (from coffee or energy drinks)
- Eat starchy foods that are easily absorbed such as bread, crackers, rice, pasta, noodles and mashed potato. Bananas are also good.
What if my baby is dehydrated due to diarrhoea?
- Start with clear fluids such as water, bu (baby coconut) or a rehydration drink such as pedialyte or gastrolyte
- Alternate feeds of rehydration fluids with breast milk/ formula
- Return to your babies normal diet as soon as signs of dehydration have gone (e.g. they’re passing urine and their skin relaxes when pinched). Returning to their usual diet will help them recover quickly and prevent any weight loss.
Note: If your baby is under 6 months, you should just continue to breastfeed them, do not try and give them anything else.
How can I prevent Diarrhoea?
There are some important things to do to prevent your child from developing diarrhea
- Make sure they receive their rotavirus immunisation at six weeks and 14 weeks of age at a maternal and child health clinic
- Make sure you and your children regularly wash their hands. This helps prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria that can cause diarrhoea. Always wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet and changing nappies, and before meals. A good trick to make sure your child is washing their hands thoroughly is to have them sing ‘Happy Birthday’ while they do it – they can skip the ‘happy long life’ verse though.
- Following some simple food safety rules can reduce the bacteria that cause diarrhoea.
- Always storing foods that could spoil in the fridge.
- Cooking meat thoroughly.
- Never put cooked meat on surfaces or plates that have held raw meat.
- Wash chopping boards with hot water and soap.
Keeping clean bench tops, stovetops and boards