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Diarrhea in Children

One of the most common causes of diarrhea in children is viral gastroenteritis -- commonly known as the "stomach flu." While diarrhea is a common childhood ailment, it can lead to dehydration and serious health problems. In children, severe diarrhea can cause dehydration in as little as one or two days. Oral rehydration therapy is the most effective treatment to prevent dehydration. If your child has diarrhea for more than 24 hours, call your healthcare provider.

Diarrhea in Children: An Introduction

Diarrhea is defined as loose, watery, unformed stools occurring more than three times in one day. The term "diarrhea" does not refer to the occasional loose stool or the frequent passing of formed stools.
 
Diarrhea is one of the most common ailments seen in infants (see Infant Diarrhea), children, and adults.
 

Causes of Diarrhea in Children

Many things can cause diarrhea in children. These include such things as infections (with a bacteria, virus, or parasite), medical conditions (such as celiac disease or Crohn's disease), or a food intolerance (such as lactose intolerance).
 
One of the most common causes of diarrhea in children is the stomach flu (known medically as viral gastroenteritis). Many different viruses can cause stomach flu in children. The most common types include:
 
Infection with the rotavirus is the most common cause of acute diarrhea in children. In the United States, rotavirus is responsible for approximately 5 to 10 percent of all cases among children under five years of age. However, because rotavirus causes more severe diarrhea than other pathogens, it accounts for a greater proportion of severe diarrhea cases (for example, 40 to 50 percent of diarrhea-related hospitalizations).
 
Rotavirus accounts for more than 500,000 physician visits and approximately 55,000 to 70,000 hospitalizations each year among children under five years of age. An estimated 1 in 200,000 children with rotavirus diarrhea die from the complications of the infection.
 
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