Most children who are unwell will not want to eat much and they appear terribly weak. Although we know that scanty eating for a few days will not do them any harm it is good to know what is likely to go down better with them.
It is important to keep giving the child drinks; fluids don’t stop the diarrhoea but they keep the body hydrated. This is crucial for maintaining the metabolism. Being unable to drink or retain fluids calls for hospitalisation. Water, diluted fruit juice (because sometimes the sugar in fruits aggravates diarrhoea), or even ice cubes made of fruit juice will make the child feel better.
A homemade salt –sugar solution (Six level teaspoons of sugar and 1/2 level teaspoon of salt dissolved in 1 litre of clean water) is also useful. It is important to mix the correct amounts as extra sugar or salt can be extremely harmful to the child. Too little water makes the diarrhoea worse. So making the mixture a little too diluted (with more than 1 litre of clean water) is also ok.
ORS or oral rehydration solution is a special combination of dry salts that is mixed with safe water used to replace the fluids lost due to diarrhoea. Check the packet for directions and add the correct amount of safe drinking water. We must not add ORS to milk, soup, fruit juice or soft drinks. A child under the age of 2 years needs at least 1/4 to 1/2 of a (250-millilitre) cup of the ORS drink after each watery stool while an older child needs at least 1/2 to 1 whole large (250-millilitre) cup of the ORS drink after each watery stool. ORS needs to be sipped. Gulping it will force a vomit in many.
ORS can be started whenever a child has three or more loose stools in a day. Even if the child is vomiting, the mixture can be offered in small amounts (2-1 tsp.) every few minutes or so.
Another important mineral to be supplemented is Zinc. It promotes repair and recovery. Therefore for 10–14 days, children over 6 months of age need 20 milligrams of zinc per day and those under 6 months of age 10 milligrams per day (tablet or syrup). Banana or other non-sweetened mashed fruit (apple sauce is a good idea) can help provide potassium.
Children may also take kanji (gruel) from rice or arrow root powder. Tea (black), Toast (without butter or oil) and yoghurt may be an option for adolescents.
Diarrhoea usually subsides by four to five days. Oatmeal or other hot cooked cereals can then be given. Chicken or vegetable broth, crackers, plain pasta or noodles and potatoes are all good choices.