Babies go through a lot of diapers on a daily basis – usually 5-10 by the end of the first week. And many of these diapers are poop-filled1.
Though this might sound really gross, new parents (or parents-to-be), if you don’t already know this, you need to keep a log of your child’s soiled diapers everyday, preferably for the first year of their life, because it is actually a strong indicator of their health2.
And when maternity leave is up or when you have no choice but to include more caretakers into the mix of helping to care for your baby, it is also important to stress to them how vital it is that they update the log as seriously as possible.
Whether these caretakers are your parents (or in-laws) who are helping out or the day care you choose to send your baby to, you will be entrusting them with the reports on your child’s poop diapers throughout the day so you can keep track of your baby’s output and health.
So what happens when you notice that your baby is experiencing diarrhoea? When their stools are more frequent, watery and they seem to fuss to no end?
Firstly, we need to stress how dangerous diarrhoea is for babies. Parents should never take diarrhoea lightly when it comes to babies.
Diarrhoea can be fatal to a child, especially if they become dehydrated and are not given immediate treatment3.
But if they’re on a liquid diet for the first 6 months, why would they even get diarrhoea? Good question. New parents (and parents-to-be), pay attention. One of the possible reasons why your babies might get diarrhoea is from being infected by a virus, like rotavirus4.
The rotavirus infection is a common gastrointestinal disease that can occur in infants and young children. This virus causes diarrhoea, vomiting, fever and abdominal pain4.
So if your child has recently contracted the disease, here’s what you need to know and do before sending them back to day care or to their grandparents/caretakers.
But wait… How did they even get rotavirus?!
Rotavirus can be present in baby poop – and can spread easily when the virus lands on surfaces or is passed from hands to mouth(4). Image for representation purpose only
If your baby hardly goes out except to see their grandparents or to day care, you might be wondering – where did they even get this virus?
Well, rotavirus is usually found in poop, and when a caretaker cleans up a baby’s poop and doesn’t clean their hands properly, the virus could potentially be spread onto surfaces, onto the baby’s hands (which might then be put into their mouths inadvertently) or when prepping their milk, could contaminate their milk4.
Scary, isn’t it?
And parents wouldn’t even know that their child has rotavirus until symptoms start showing up 2 days later4.
It usually starts with fever and vomiting, as well as stomach pain (though we really wouldn’t be able to tell!). Then diarrhoea starts and this can go on for 3-7 days! And this could lead to dehydration4.
In Malaysia (2005), 50% of hospitalisation cases among children involving diarrhoea is caused by rotavirus5. So this is something parents really need to be wary of.
Why should we keep our children home when they have rotavirus?
Babies should stay at home and not go to daycare or their caretakers if they are infected with rotavirus. Image for representation purpose only
Since the incubation period for rotavirus is up to 48 hours, children can easily spread the virus to others during this time4. Just like how when we know we are carrying the COVID-19 virus and we stay home so we don’t spread it to others, parents ought to keep their kids home when they have rotavirus.
Since the symptoms of rotavirus will start showing up after 2 days and can last up to ten days, you should consider your child contagious for about twelve days4 and keep them home for that long.
Though each day care would have its own guidelines for when to send a child to the centre after falling sick, generally, children should be symptom-free for at least 24 hours before returning to school after being infected with any diseases6.
One of the many ways to help keep your child safe is to stay at home as long as they are experiencing symptoms of illness or discomfort. When returning to the care centre, make sure they know why your child was absent and provide special instructions for rehydration if necessary.
We wouldn’t want our children catching serious, contagious diseases from other kids at day care centres, so we should be as civic-minded to keep our kids at home when they are sick too!
If your child is infected with rotavirus, what else can you do?
Keep your baby hydrated as much as possible if they have diarrhoea. Image for representation purpose only
Unfortunately, currently, there are no medications that can treat this disease. If your child has been infected with rotavirus and you take them to see a doctor or hospitalise them, the goal of the treatment is to only help reduce symptoms and prevent dehydration7.
What you could do is to:
- Give your child plenty of formula or breast milk or water and oral rehydration fluids if they are older7.
- Do not give your child soda, juice or dairy products7.
- Give your child solid food if they can already eat – but bland food is recommended7.
If your child requires hospitalisation, treatments may include7:
- Intravenous (IV) fluids to prevent dehydration.
- A lab analysis of your child’s stools.
Good news: Rotavirus infection is preventable
Ask your paediatrician about preventive measures to help protect your child against rotavirus. Image for representation purpose only
If you want to give yourself peace of mind, speak to your paediatrician about preventive measures including vaccination8.
Parents are responsible for the health and well-being of their children including maintaining good hygiene, ensuring sufficient nutrition and vaccinating them against dangerous diseases. Do consult with your family doctor or paediatrician to ask them about the vaccine before your child even turns 6 weeks old to stay ahead of the protection plan8!
And don’t forget to always maintain good hygiene and make sure children wash their hands often after touching surfaces or playing outside!
- MyHealth.Alberta.ca. Bowel Movements in Babies. Available From: https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/Pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=abo3062&lang=en-ca#abo3063. Last Accessed 14 September 2022.
- Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. Stool color overview. Available From: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/johns-hopkins-childrens-center/what-we-treat/specialties/gastroenterology-hepatology-nutrition/stool-color-overview.html. Last Accessed 22 August 2022.
- World Health Organization. Diarrhoeal disease. Available From: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diarrhoeal-disease. Last Accessed 21 August 2022.
- Mayo Clinic. Rotavirus. Available From: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rotavirus/symptoms-causes/syc-20351300. Last Accessed 22 August 2022.
- Hsu VP, Abdul Rahman H, Wong SL, Ibrahim LHJ, Yusoff AFHJ, Chan LG, et al. Estimates of the burden of rotavirus disease in Malaysia. The Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2005;192(s1).
- Cleveland Clinic. Rotavirus. Available From: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/8275-rotavirus. Last Accessed 14 September 2022.
- Mayo Clinic. Rotavirus. Available From: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rotavirus/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20351306. Last Accessed 22 August 2022.
- PORTAL MyHEALTH. Rotavirus vaccine. Available From: https://www.myhealth.gov.my/en/rotavirus-vaccine. Last Accessed 21 August 2022.