Germ Illustration

Diarrhea

Diarrhea can be defined as any change from the child’s normal solid or semi-solid stool to a liquid or semi-liquid state. Diarrhea stools are often more frequent than usual and the child may lose bowel control. Nausea and vomiting may sometimes accompany diarrhea.

Infants and toddlers can become critically ill with severe diarrhea because fluid loss leads to dehydration.

Causes

Diarrhea occurs when the bowel is stimulated or irritated in an unusual way. The causes can be infectious or non-infectious. To identify infectious causes, a medical examination and laboratory tests are required. All children with unexplained diarrhea should be excluded from the child care centre until 48 hours after symptoms have resolved or a medical explanation has been obtained.

What to Do

  • If a child has one episode of diarrhea, separate him/her from the group for one hour and watch for other signs of illness.
  • If no further diarrhea occurs, and the child does not appear to be ill, inform the parents at the end of the day (unless you have been given different direction from the parents).
  • If more diarrhea episodes occur during that day, inform the child’s parents as soon as possible. Tell them to keep the child home until 48 hours after diarrhea stops. Suggest that the parent take the child to their health care provider and request a stool culture if diarrhea persists. Record the incident in the child’s file and daily journal.
  • Frequent diarrhea in a sick looking child with fever, stomach pain or blood in the stool indicates that the child needs immediate medical attention. Inform the parents immediately, asking them to pick up the child and seek medical advice. Exclude the child until 48 hours after the diarrhea stops.
  • Clean up and disinfect the child’s surroundings, including anything that might have been touched by the child’s stool, as soon as possible after the diarrhea episode. Take special care with the diaper change area and with handwashing.

Last modified: February 19, 2020