Why Do Antibiotics Cause Diarrhea in Children ?

May 18th, 2009

Does your child get diarrhea during or after they take antibiotics?  If so there are some things you can do to help.

What is Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is generally watery or liquid stools.  We have all experienced acute diarrhea which only lasts a couple of days.  Usually a child with diarrhea goes to the bathroom more than three times a day.  Diarrhea can be a side effect of treatments or even long lasting diarrhea can be a sign of a more chronic disease.

Unfortunately diarrhea is an all to common side effect of antibiotics.  But there are some things you can do to proactively avoid this side effect or alleviate some of the symptoms and get back to a healthy state rather quickly.

Why do antibiotics cause diarrhea?

The answer is simple.  Your doctor prescribes antibiotics to kill off bad bacteria.  There is both good and bad bacteria in your body.  The good bacteria in your digestive system helps the enzymes break down the food and also helps to fight off bad bacteria.  The antibiotics do not generally discriminate against which bacteria it fights and kills off.  This usually means both good and bad bacteria are eliminated from your body.

How can I protect my child?

This is a simple answer as well but often times overlooked.  When your child is prescribed an antibiotic ask your doctor to prescribe a probiotic as well.  Make sure your child takes this while taking the antibiotic and a week after he/she finishes taking the antibiotic.  The probiotic will help to replenish the good bacteria your child’s digestive tract has lost during the antibiotics healing process.  As always anytime a side effect occurs from medication the prescribing doctor should be notified.  He/she may have some alternatives as well to help aid in the healing process.

Another good tip is to have your child eat yogurt with live cultures to help replace the good bacteria usually known as lactobacillus, which can also be found in acidolphilus milk.

Diarrhea can dehydrate a person; drink plenty of water, pedialyte, and sports drink.  Your child can also lose important nutrients in the body with diarrhea.  Make sure your child is fed, if solid food is not something the child wants offer broth that is low in sodium.  Fruit juices or the fruit and soda can help replace potassium.

If diarrhea is persistent and home treatments do not help it may be necessary to take your child back for a check up.  One reason is sometimes the antibiotic kills off more good bacteria and not enough bad bacteria.  This bacteria will continue to lay in the digestive tract and is kept down in count by the good flora in your body, but it does not eliminate the bad bacteria.  This can become c-difficile-associated diarrhea, pseudomembranous colitis also known as PMC, or even a life threatening condition known as toxic megacolon.  This is rare and only occurs in 1-2 out of a hundred people.

C-difficile bacteria can be passed on to other family members that may be handling the stool; possibly changing diapers or cleaning soiled clothes.  The bacteria can live outside the human body for months and sometimes years.  If you handled the stool in anyway make sure you notify your doctor so that you also can be tested.

Can you prevent Diarrhea from Antibiotics?

The simple answer is no.  Most of the time diarrhea is caused because the antibiotics are doing the job they are supposed to do.  On rare occasions you might be able to avoid taking a general antibiotic and wait for the test results to come back telling the doctor a specific antibiotic that will most likely take care of the bad bacteria, but even then, the antibiotic might not work and may still kill off the good bacteria.  The best form of prevention is to catch the symptoms as quickly as possible, notify the doctor and start treating the symptoms.

We all want to protect our children from the evils and diseases in the world today.  But we cannot keep them safe from everything.  Fighting off bacterial infections and side effects helps your child to build a healthy immune system.  It is never good to see anyone sick, let alone your child, but knowing this is a normal process of life and will help them to fight off other illnesses in the future is a positive thought to remember.

Child n’Parent offers many resources for your children’s health.

By:  Jami Wright

Entry Filed under: Child Health

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