With the advent of summer, loose motions are a common problem. They most commonly occur because of an infection of the intestines.
- Most cases of loose motions occur because of infection from contaminated food and water, mostly after eating out. It is best to avoid uncooked items whenever you eat out – curd preparations, salads, chutneys, juices – these are often contaminated and can lead to infection. Well-cooked and steaming hot food should be safe.
- Frequent hand-washing is also important, especially before eating or drinking. Children should be taught and encouraged to wash hands frequently. Maids should be observed to wash hands thoroughly before cooking food.
- Fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly in running water before cooking.
- RO or filter at home should be serviced regularly.
- It is very important to replenish the water and salts lost in the loose motions or vomiting. It is best to take liquids that have water, salt and sugar – all three.
- ORS or Electral has the best concentration of water, salts and sugar that the body needs. 1 packet of ORS or Electral should be mixed in 1 Litre of clean water. It is advisable to take 1 glass of ORS after every motion. Once mixed, it can be used for 24 hours – any solution left unused after that should be discarded.
- If ORS is not available, an equivalent solution can be prepared at home by mixing 6 level teaspoons of sugar and ½ level teaspoon of salt in 1 Litre of clean water.
- Other liquids that are good for rehydration: lemonade, coconut water, soup, dal ka pani, juice, etc. People with diabetes should check their blood sugar levels if they take ORS or sugary liquids.
- Probiotics are also helpful in restoring the balance of good bacteria in the gut. Dahi, lassi, buttermilk are natural probiotics and plenty of these can be taken during loose motions.
What Not to Take (Without Doctor’s Prescription)
- Loperamide (brand names Roko, Lomotil, Imodium, etc) – This medicine may reduce loose motions but very often causes side-effects such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, etc.
- Antibiotics (O2, Oflox OZ, Norflox TZ, Enteroquinol, Metrogyl, etc) – Most episodes of loose motions are caused by viruses, for which antibiotics are ineffective. Having unnecessary antibiotics causes unwanted side- effects, and increases antibiotic resistance, meaning these antibiotics will not work when actually needed!
- Caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee, cold drinks are avoidable. They increase production of urine and aggravate the dehydration.
When to Consult the Doctor
- In most cases, loose motions get better in a day or two. Please talk to your doctor immediately if you have cramps, vomiting, blood in stools or fever, as these can be signs of a severe infection.
- Dizziness, confusion, listlessness indicate severe dehydration, and the doctor should be consulted immediately. Dehydrated children become irritable or listless, refuse feeds and water – in such cases also, the doctor should be consulted immediately.
- Loose motions lasting for more than a week are also abnormal and need consultation with a doctor.