Diarrhoea is a condition that involves frequent passing of loose or watery stool, which is sometimes accompanied by fever, weakness, abdominal pain, and dehydration. In general, a person (either child or adult) suffers from diarrhoea at least 1-2 times a year. It slows down daily activity, makes one weak. A research shows that children who suffered from severe diarrhoea had a poor score in a series of intelligence test that indicates permanent damage.
Let talk about how to identify diarrhoea, the causes behind it, primary home care, when to see the doctor and how to prevent it.
When you have loose or watery stool for 3 times or more a day and you do not drink adequate fluid; you become dehydrated and that is followed by weakness and other complicated symptoms (e.g. Loss of consciousness, uncontrolled bowel movement, high fever etc.)
Consult with doctor ASAP:
In children alarming symptoms are:
What causes Diarrhoea:
The major cause of diarrhoea is infection by organisms (bacteria, virus) due to-
- Improper sanitary system (open defecation, unplanned drainage etc)
- Contaminated water source
- Lack of hygiene
- Nutritional deficiency leading to a compromised immune system (especially Vitamin A & Zinc deficiency is a major cause of diarrhoea)
- Eating contaminated food
Primary Home Care:
You know when to consult a doctor now, so let us focus on the primary home care of diarrhoea to prevent it from getting worse:
Replenish the lost water and electrolytes (Sodium, Potassium etc.) as much as you can by drinking saline water either homemade (half teaspoon of salt+ 4-6 teaspoon of sugar+ 1 litre water) or the saline packs found in a pharmacy.
Add a small amount of lemon juice or orange juice for Potassium supplement. Take the drink throughout the day in small sips and after each motion.
Add at least 1 litre of fluid with your regular fluid intake (2-3 litres). If you have underlying kidney or heart disease, consult with doctor.
In case of children under 2 years, the amount of fluid should be discussed with a physician.
- Have food that is easy on the stomach:
Start eating with ‘see through’ foods like clear chicken broth, ‘Rice water’ (Bhater Mar) with salt, then gradually go for solid foods like banana, light toast, salty crackers, rice, potatoes.
It is better to start eating solid foods as early as the body begins to accept it.
- Other helpful dietary options are:
- Carrots (boiled and cut into small pieces or blended)
- Black tea sweetened with sugar
- Psyllium husk or ‘Ishab Gul’ (2-3 teaspoon in a glass of water) helps to make the stool bulkier
- Yogurt (not plain yogurt, but mixed with banana)
- What to avoid:
- Fatty, greasy, spicy food
- Fresh juices as they contain large amounts of fructose, which is hard to digest
- Energy drinks, Milk
- Strenuous exercise
- Over the counter drug in diarrhoea:
- Loperamide (if there are no symptoms presented in ‘when to consult with doctor’ part)
- Do not take anti-biotics to treat diarrhoea without the consultation of a physician. It is useless if the diarrhoea is caused by a virus and on the contrary makes the patient weaker due to the side effects of anti-biotics.
Diarrhoea is not a disease to panic about; with necessary preventive steps it can be prevented. Encouraging kids to wash hands regularly, avoid street foods and maintenance of personal hygiene can decrease the incidence of diarrhoea. It can be controlled with early home care mentioned above.
Stay safe, stay energetic!