Pediatric Diarrhea

Pediatric Diarrhea

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Summary

Diarrhea is when a child’s stool is unusually loose or watery.

Expanded overview

Diarrhea is a common condition that occurs when the stool is unusually loose or watery. Everyone experiences diarrhea at some point or another. Some children have chronic (long lasting) diarrhea that interferes with many aspects of their lives.

Types

There are two main types of diarrhea:

  • Acute – lasting from two days to two weeks, this type of diarrhea is caused by a bacterial, viral or parasitic infection
  • Chronic – characterized by lasting longer than four weeks, chronic (long lasting) diarrhea usually signals the presence of an underlying digestive condition

Causes

The cause of diarrhea depends on whether it is acute or chronic.

The causes of acute diarrhea include:

  • C. difficile infection (bacterium that affects the digestive tract)
  • Cryptosporidium infection (parasites that burrow into the walls of the small intestine, causing infection)
  • Cytomegalovirus infection (virus that exists in many healthy people and usually only causes problems in those with weakened immune systems)  
  • E. coli (infection due to ingesting contaminated food or water)
  • Eating too much artificial sweeteners in food or drinks
  • Food intolerances (digestive problems due to eating certain foods)
  • Food poisoning
  • Fructose (type of sugar in honey and fruit) intolerance
  • Giardiasis (infection that normally occurs in developing areas of the world due to poor sanitation and unclean water)
  • Lactose intolerance 
  • Norovirus infection (highly contagious virus spread through food, water or coming into close contact with an infected person)
  • Rotavirus (infection that commonly causes diarrhea in children under the age of 5)
  • Salmonella infection (type of bacteria that affects the intestinal tract)
  • Shigella infection (intestinal, highly contagious disease that causes bloody stool)
  • Stomach surgery
  • Taking antacids that contain magnesium
  • Taking certain antibiotic medications
  • Taking certain cancer medications
  • Traveler’s diarrhea, or “Montezuma’s revenge”

Causes of chronic diarrhea

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of diarrhea can include:

  • Bloating
  • Bloody stool
  • Cramps in the abdomen
  • Fever
  • Loose and watery stools
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Urgent need to have a bowel movement

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