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Facts for Life

Diarrhoea

Key Messages: What every family and community has a right to know

 
  1. Diarrhoea kills children by draining liquid from the body, which dehydrates the child. As soon as diarrhoea starts, it is essential to give the child extra fluids along with regular foods and fluids.

  2. A child's life is in danger if she or he has several watery stools within an hour or if there is blood in the stool. Immediate help from a trained health worker is needed.

  3. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continued breastfeeding after six months can reduce the risks associated with diarrhoea. Immunization against rotavirus (where recommended and available) reduces deaths from diarrhoea caused by this virus. Vitamin A and zinc supplementation can reduce the risk of diarrhoea.

  4. A child with diarrhoea needs to continue eating regularly. While recovering, she or he needs to be offered more food than usual to replenish the energy and nourishment lost due to the illness.

  5. A child with diarrhoea should receive oral rehydration salts (ORS) solution and a daily zinc supplement for 10–14 days. Diarrhoea medicines are generally ineffective and can be harmful.

  6. To prevent diarrhoea, all faeces, including those of infants and young children, should be disposed of in a latrine or toilet or buried.

  7. Good hygiene practices and use of safe drinking water protect against diarrhoea. Hands should be thoroughly washed with soap and water or a substitute, such as ash and water, after defecating and after contact with faeces, and before touching or preparing food or feeding children.