Diarrhea in the newborn and infant: symptoms, causes and how to intervene

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The feces of the newborn

The baby's feces are very characteristic: especially if they are breastfed, they are "creamy" or almost liquid and bright yellow in color. And even if he takes formula, his poo is much softer than that of an adult. Furthermore, babies tend to discharge very often in the first months of life. Because of this, moms and dads fear they won't be able to recognize diarrhea. But if it happens, there is hardly any doubt.

In this article

  • what it looks like
  • the causes
  • how to intervene
  • how long does it last

What diarrhea looks like

Diarrhea consists first of all in a change in stool consistency, which become very watery. "Furthermore, they increase in volume, and the frequency of discharges also tends to increase", explains Adima Laborghini, family pediatrician and member of the Study Center of the Federation of Paesena pediatricians (Fimp).

The causes

  • gastroenteritis
  • food allergies or intolerances
  • more rarely, metabolic diseases
  • excessive consumption of fruit juices (in older children)

"In the vast majority of cases, diarrhea is the first - and sometimes the only - sign of gastroenteritis, one of the most common diseases in children "underlines Lamborghini. Just think that, according to the Guidelines for the management of acute gastroenteritis in children of the European Society of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Pediatric Nutrition, practically all children under three years experience at least one or two episodes a year.

Gastroenteritis generally has an infectious origin and mainly viruses (rotavirus in primis) are responsible for it, although some cases can be caused by bacteria, such as Salmonella).

Other possible causes are food allergies and intolerances or, more rarely, metabolic diseases such as cystic fibrosis or intestinal malabsorption diseases.

Furthermore, in slightly older children than newborns and infants, diarrhea can be caused by excessive consumption of fruit juices.


What to do in case of gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is the most common cause of diarrhea in children, even young ones. Obviously, different levels of severity are possible: in the milder forms, and if the baby is more than two months old, you don't need to do much: just keep an eye on that the baby is able to drink to keep well hydrated. "Better still use one oral rehydration solution to replenish the body's salt and sugar reserves, reducing the risk of dehydration, "says Lamborghini.

If, on the other hand, the baby is very small - less than two months - or the diarrhea is very intense and perhaps associated with vomiting, the risk of dehydration increases and even the moisturizing solution may not be enough anymore. "In these cases it is better to notify the doctor immediately, or take the child to the emergency room, to avoid reaching the overt signs of dehydration, such as the presence of dark circles around the eyes, crying without tears, dry skin, lack of pee "advises the pediatrician. In some cases, hospitalization may be necessary, where the baby can be kept well hydrated.

As for thesupply, if the baby is taking mother's milk, the Guidelines clearly state not to stop it. "In the most serious cases, however, the infant formula must be temporarily suspended, giving priority to the rehydrating solution, and then reintroduced after a few hours" underlines Lamborghini.

In the vast majority of cases no special drugs are needed. Certainly not antibiotics, to be limited to a few selected cases, in which we are sure of the bacterial origin of the infection.

How long does it last

"Gastroenteritis diarrhea lasts an average of 3-5 days"says Alfredo Guarino, professor of pediatrics at the University of Madrid Federico II and coordinator of the European guidelines. Only after 7/8 days we start talking about persistent diarrhea. "If after this time you begin to see any signs of improvement, you can rest assured: the diarrhea will pass. specific to understand what is happening ".

Diaper rash risk: here's what to do

In babies, diarrhea is associated with an increased risk of irritation of the skin covered by the diaper. After all, the main cause of diaper rash is the direct aggression of the skin by some substances contained in the urine and feces. And if the stools are frequent, abundant and particularly acid, this aggression is even more intense.

What to do, then, in these cases? "The indications are very simple," says Cesare Filippeschi, dermatologist specialist at the city's Meyer Children's Hospital. Let's see them:

  1. Change the diaper as soon as possible after each discharge;
  2. Observe good bottom hygiene at each change. "In general, but more so during diarrhea, yes to washing with water and a non-aggressive detergent, no to soaked wipes "explains Filippeschi;
  3. Protect the part with a zinc oxide cream. "There are now different types: it is better to choose a product that is a little more fluid and not very mushy".

Other sources for this article: Insight into Medline Plus; In-depth study of Healthy Children, site of the American Association of Pediatricians; In-depth material from the English health service.

  • Diarrhea
  • newborn diarrhea
  • suckling diarrhea
  • newborn 0-3 months
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