Diarrhea is the condition of having at least three loose or liquid bowel movements each day. It can lasts for a few days with the most significant symptom been dehydration due to fluid loss. Parents should be aware that loose but non-watery stools in breast feeding babies does not necessarily constitute diarrhea.
It is most common in developing countries. Total deaths for diarrhea worldwide was about 1.26 million in 2013. In 2012, it was the second most common cause of deaths in children younger than five years of age. Frequent episodes of diarrhea can lead to malnutrition, stunted growths and poor intellectual development.
The most common cause is due to either virus, bacteria or parasite. Infections are from two major sources, food or water contaminated by stool. If there is blood present in the stool, it is known as dysentery. In traveler’s however bacteria infection is predominant. The impact of diarrhea is exacerbated by the lack of adequate available and medical care.
Prevention of infectious diarrhea include but not limited to enhanced sanitation, pure water and proper personal hygiene. Oral rehydration solution (ORS), which is clean water with modest amounts of salts and sugar is the treatment of choice. For instance in one litre of water, one should add 2 tablespoonfuls of sugar plus 1 teaspoonful of salt.
Pedialyte is a commercially available ORS, ingredients include sodium, potassium, chloride, dextrose and zinc. World health organization estimates that upwards of 50 million children, have been saved by this basic treatment. We at Yeloto African Children Foundation, advocate that people continue to eat healthy food and babies continue to breastfeed if diarrhea is present. In those with severe dehydration, intravenous fluids maybe needed. The majority of cases can be managed well by fluids by mouth.
On a more personal note, I find ciprofloxacin as most effective remedy for traveler’s diarrhea.
Dr. Oluyemi Olawaiye, Pharm D. is the founder of Yeloto African Children Foundation (www.yeloto.org)