Loose stools in children are commonly caused by intestinal infections and stomach viruses such as rotavirus and food intolerances and allergies. Chronic loose stools in children are generally not a result of serious issues, but if they persist longer than four weeks may need to be addressed by a paediatric gastroenterologist to rule out serious underlying conditions.
Chronic loose stools in children can be caused by intestinal infections and food sensitivities, intolerances or allergies. Intestinal infections that can cause chronic loose stools in children can be a result of bacteria such as Salmonella or E.Coli. Rotavirus, one of the most common causes of chronic loose stools in children, is highly contagious and according to Dr. Jim Sears M.D., can cause water, foul-smelling, brown or green diarrhoea that can last from three to four weeks as the intestines heal from the infection. Rotavirus may also cause vomiting and fever. Food intolerances can cause chronic loose stools that will persist until the culprit foods are removed from the diet. The most common food intolerance in children is lactose intolerance which occurs after a child eats dairy products that contain lactose. Products that contain colouring, chemical additives and sugar can also irritate children's intestines. Food allergies can also chronic cause loose stools in children that may also contain blood and mucus. Chronic loose stools caused by food allergies are usually accompanied by rashes, a runny nose, coughing and/or wheezing.
Chronic loose stools caused by viral infections are not usually treatable by medication and must run their course. Severe chronic loose stools may need further testing to rule-out serious conditions. Your paediatrician may perform a routine stool culture to test for salmonella or E.Coli bacterial infections. According to Dr. Sears, your child's stool may also be tested for ova and parasites as well as rotavirus and giardia antigens that can also cause chronic loose stools in children. Your paediatrician may also perform a hemocult test to test for the presence of blood in your child's stool which can signify food allergies or other intestinal issues.
Chronic loose stools can cause dehydration in children. Look for signs of dehydration such as a decrease in urination, sunken eyes, dry mouth, inability to produce tears when crying, increased irritability and a decrease in activity. Oral rehydration fluids will help your child stay hydrated while suffering from chronic loose stools. If your child will not drink oral rehydration fluids, try offering white grape juice to drink or ice chips to suck on. Avoid juices with high sorbitol content such as pear or apple juice which can cause increased loose stool or diarrhoea symptoms.
Dr. Sears states that adding new foods to your child's diet or increasing their daily intake of high-fibre fruits and vegetables can also cause chronic loose stools. Children who drink excessive apple and pear juice may also suffer from chronic loose stools.
If your child experiences prolonged chronic loose stools, they can develop a temporary lactase deficiency which causes an intolerance of dairy products. Try replacing dairy products with soy products such as soy milk if your child develops severe loose stools after eating dairy products.