What is Diarrhoea?

Diarrhoea is very common in kids. An average child suffers from 1.7 episodes of diarrhoea per year.

According to the World Health Organization, diarrhoea is defined as the passage of ≥ 3 loose or liquid stools per day (or more frequent passage than is normal for the individual). Please note that frequent passing of formed stools is not diarrhoea, nor is the passing of loose, "pasty" stools by breastfed babies.

Diarrhoea is usually a symptom of an infection caused by a stomach bug (viral, parasitic and bacterial).

Sometimes children with diarrhoea also suffer from fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps.

How does diarrhoea spread?

Germs causing diarrhoea are spread through contaminated food or drinking water. It can spread easily from person to person as a result of poor hygiene. They usually spread rapidly among kids who have not learned to use the toilet.5

How to manage your child's diarrhoea?

  • Give your child lots of fluids- The primary complication of diarrhoea is dehydration. Water and electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium and bicarbonate) are lost during an episode of diarrhoea. Hence it is important to give plenty of home-based fluids to your child, such as rice water, soup, daal water, nimbu paani, water, curd.2,3
  • If you are still breastfeeding- Keep feeding your baby on demand. If your baby only takes a little milk at a time, you can try giving small feeds more often than usual.
  • If you are formula feeding- Offer the usual formula without diluting. If your baby refuses to take the feed, try using a sippy cup, spoon, dropper, or straw. Continue formula feeding and offer your child the food he or she normally eats.5,6
  • Avoiding certain foods: Avoid giving your child juice and soft drinks, because they can sometimes make the diarrhoea worse.6
  • Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) + Zinc Supplementation: ORS is a mixture of clean water, salt and sugar used to treat dehydration caused due to diarrhoea. Zinc supplements help reduce the duration of diarrhoea. Give ORS + oral zinc solution or tablets to your child for minimum 14 days.2,3 However, please consult with your doctor before giving ORS to your child.

Preparing ORS solution:

  • Wash your hands with soap.
  • Take a litre of boiled and cooled water in a clean container and add a packet of ORS
  • Stir thoroughly so that the powder is completely mixed.
  • Keep the vessel covered.
  • ORS should be consumed or discarded within 12 hours if kept at room temperature or 24 hours if kept refrigerated.

Children (2 months up to 2 years) should be given one-fourth to half a cup of ORS solution.2

Consult your doctor immediately if your child:2,5,6

  • Has an increased frequency of diarrhoea and vomiting
  • Has fever along with diarrhoea
  • Refuses to take anything orally
  • Is not active
  • Has black or bloody stools
  • Is showing signs of dehydration- [decreased urination, increased thirst, absence of tears, decreased skin turgor (skin takes time to return to its normal position), dry skin, mouth and tongue)]

Maintaining high standards of hygiene is very important to keep the infections that cause diarrhoea at bay.


  1. National Health Service. Diarrhoea and vomiting [Internet]. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/diarrhoea-and-vomiting/. Accessed on Mar 5, 2020.
  2. National Health Mission. Department of Health & Family Welfare, Government of Himachal Pradesh. Management of diarrhoea and ARI [Internet]. Available at: http://www.nrhmhp.gov.in/sites/default/files/files/Management%20of%20com.... Accessed on Mar 5, 2020.
  3. World health Organization. Diarrhoeal disease [Internet]. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diarrhoeal-disease. Accessed on Mar 5, 2020.
  4. MoHFW, Government of India. Diarrhea [Internet]. Available at: https://www.nhp.gov.in/disease/digestive/intestines/diarrhoea. Accessed on Mar 5, 2020.
  5. Canadian Paediatric Society. Dehydration and diarrhea in children: Prevention and treatment [Internet] [Updated Jul, 2018]. Available at: https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/dehydration_and_diarrhea. Accessed on Mar 5, 2020.
  6. Government of Quebec. Diarrhea and vomiting (stomach flu or “gastro”) [Internet]. Available at: https://www.inspq.qc.ca/en/tiny-tot/health/common-health-problems/diarrh.... Accessed on Mar 5, 2020.