Diarrhea in children

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Debduti Mukhopadhyay, M.B.B.S[2]

Synonyms and Keywords: Diarrhea in kids

Overview

Diarrhea defines as an increase in frequency or change in consistency of stool to become more liquid; which is different than normal for that person is called diarrhea. Causes include infections, diet intolerance, malnutrition, etc. Diarrhea is usually self-limited. Severe cases of dehydration may require treatment.

Historical Perspective

  • Hippocrates first coined the term diarrhea which was derived from the Greek word "diarrhoia", which translates into "flowing through".[1]
  • It was described as a symptom of a lot of conditions such as intestinal parasites, cholera, and in relation to improper water and food handling.

Classification

  • Chronic diarrhea in children may be classified according to the following subtypes/groups:[2]
  • Osmotic: due to unabsorbed nutrients
  • Secretory: due to imbalances in ion secretion
  • Mixed: stool osmotic gap (50-100 mOsm)

Pathophysiology

Causes

Differentiating Diarrhea in children from other Diseases

For further information about the differential diagnosis, click here.

Epidemiology and Demographics

  • In 2017, 8% of all deaths in children all over the world were due to diarrhea. [6] [7]
  • 2-3 million deaths per year occur every year due to acute diarrhea especially in developing countries.
  • 9% of all hospitalizations in the United States under the age of 5 are due to diarrhea.
  • In the age group of fewer than 3 years, the incidence of diarrhea is noted to be 1.3-2.3 episodes per child annually.

Age

  • In one study conducted in Hanoi, Vietnam on children <5 years of age with diarrhea; it was found that 40.9% were 1 year and below and 71.0% were 2 years and below.

[8]

Gender

  • Female gender has a lower risk of diarrheal disease. [9]

Risk Factors

  • Travel to countries with poor sanitary conditions, swimming, daycare, sick contacts at home and school, antibiotics usage. Autoimmune conditions such as celiac and inflammatory bowel disease. [4]

Natural History, Complications and Prognosis

  • Moderate to severe diarrhea can cause dehydration in children. Severe dehydration can cause seizures, dizziness, lack of energy, dry skin, etc. [10]
  • Usually prognosis is good, and most cases resolve in a few days.

Diagnosis

Diagnostic Criteria

  • The diagnosis of diarrhea is made when either the frequency of bowel movements increases or the consistency of stools becomes looser than what is normal for that child. [4]

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms that indicate severe disease: [11]

Physical Examination

  • Patients with severe diarrhea usually appear toxic.
  • Physical examination may be remarkable for: [12] [13]

Laboratory Findings

  • Measurement of serum bicarbonate concentration of more than 15mEq per L is the laboratory finding used to evaluate 5% or less dehydration. Hypernatremic dehydration can be confirmed by serum sodium levels. [11] [4]
  • If there is evidence of blood or mucus in stool, or if the patient is immunocompromised, then stool microbiological tests can be done. They are, however, not required in suspected viral cases.
  • Stool culture results can sometimes become available only after 3-5 days, in some infectious causes, the organism is not visible even on stool testing.

Electrocardiogram

There are no ECG findings associated with diarrhea.

X-ray

  • Usually not indicated but may be done to rule out structural anomalies of the digestive tract. [14]

Echocardiography or Ultrasound

  • Severe dehydration in children caused by acute diarrhea can be measured by ultrasound evaluation of the ratio of aorta/inferior vena cava. [15]

CT scan

There are no CT scan findings associated with diarrhea in children.

MRI

There are no MRI findings associated with diarrhea in children.

Other Imaging Findings

There are no other imaging findings associated with diarrhea.

Other Diagnostic Studies

Treatment

Medical Therapy

  • Fluids to prevent dehydration, especially in babies under six months of age. Artificially sweetened drinks like fruit juices should be avoided as these can make it worse.
  • Slow initiation of rehydration drinks which have a perfect mix of water and electrolytes. Feed normally, medications are usually not required. [16]

Prevention

  • Mainstay is the maintenance of sanitary conditions. Caregivers should wash their own hands and encourage children to do so after changing diapers, before and after handling food, after having contact with pets, after spending time in the garden/ soil. [16]

References

  1. "Ancient Origin of the Word 'Diarrhea' and Other Common Medical Terms".
  2. Thiagarajah JR, Kamin DS, Acra S, Goldsmith JD, Roland JT, Lencer WI, Muise AM, Goldenring JR, Avitzur Y, Martín MG (June 2018). "Advances in Evaluation of Chronic Diarrhea in Infants". Gastroenterology. 154 (8): 2045–2059.e6. doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2018.03.067. PMC 6044208. PMID 29654747.
  3. "Diarrhea in Children - Pediatrics - MSD Manual Professional Edition".
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "Diarrhea in Children - American College of Gastroenterology".
  5. D'Amico F, Baumgart DC, Danese S, Peyrin-Biroulet L (July 2020). "Diarrhea During COVID-19 Infection: Pathogenesis, Epidemiology, Prevention, and Management". Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 18 (8): 1663–1672. doi:10.1016/j.cgh.2020.04.001. PMC 7141637 Check |pmc= value (help). PMID 32278065 Check |pmid= value (help).
  6. "Diarrhoea - UNICEF DATA".
  7. Dennehy PH (September 2005). "Acute diarrheal disease in children: epidemiology, prevention, and treatment". Infect Dis Clin North Am. 19 (3): 585–602. doi:10.1016/j.idc.2005.05.003. PMID 16102650.
  8. Vu Nguyen T, Le Van P, Le Huy C, Nguyen Gia K, Weintraub A (July 2006). "Etiology and epidemiology of diarrhea in children in Hanoi, Vietnam". Int J Infect Dis. 10 (4): 298–308. doi:10.1016/j.ijid.2005.05.009. PMID 16458564.
  9. Pinzón-Rondón ÁM, Zárate-Ardila C, Hoyos-Martínez A, Ruiz-Sternberg ÁM, Vélez-van-Meerbeke A (August 2015). "Country characteristics and acute diarrhea in children from developing nations: a multilevel study". BMC Public Health. 15: 811. doi:10.1186/s12889-015-2120-8. PMC 4546125. PMID 26293136.
  10. "Diarrhea in Children: Why It Happens & How To Stop It".
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Gastroenteritis in Children - American Family Physician".
  12. "Diagnosis of Chronic Diarrhea in Children | NIDDK".
  13. "Diagnosing and treating diarrhea in children".
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Chronic Diarrhea in Children - What You Need to Know".
  15. Levine AC, Shah SP, Umulisa I, Munyaneza RB, Dushimiyimana JM, Stegmann K, Musavuli J, Ngabitsinze P, Stulac S, Epino HM, Noble VE (October 2010). "Ultrasound assessment of severe dehydration in children with diarrhea and vomiting". Acad Emerg Med. 17 (10): 1035–41. doi:10.1111/j.1553-2712.2010.00830.x. PMID 21040103.
  16. 16.0 16.1 "Child Diarrhoea | Causes, Symptoms and Treatment | Patient".