Diarrhoea causes dehydration and severe diarrhoea kills millions of children worldwide.
Older children can learn and share knowledge about the causes of diarrhoea, the dangers of dehydration and to raise awareness about the need for rehydration, washing hands and other important hygiene practices.
Scroll down to read our Top Ten messages on Diarrhoea for children to learn and share, plus ideas on what children can do to understand, find out more, take action and reflect on this topic.
Download our PDF for your copy of all the messages and how to get children started with learning and sharing.
Diarrhoea is watery poo that happens three or more times a day.
Diarrhoea is caused by germs we can’t see that get into our mouth, from our hands or food and into our tummy. The germs make our tummy want to get rid of the germs by using more water, making our poo watery. When we have diarrhoea we can lose a lot of water and might get a fever. It is very dangerous to lose a lot of water. When we have lost a lot of water we become very sleepy, with saggy skin and sunken eyes. When we have watery poo, or when a baby has watery poo, more than three times a day we need to take action to treat diarrhoea and replace water and nutrients to help the person get well.
Diarrhoea is caused by germs getting into the mouth from contaminated food, drink or touching the mouth with dirty fingers, or using dirty spoons and cups.
We can’t see germs. Germs come from poo and they can move from person to person on hands and food and in water that is dirty because poo has got into it. When we wash vegetables or plates and spoons with dirty water, or if we drink it, the germs can get into our bodies. To stop germs spreading we need to remember to wash our hands with soap every time before we eat and after we poo. We need to use the toilet and keep our drinking water clean and covered.
Some germs, like cholera, are very dangerous and cause a dangerous kind of diarrhoea. Germs love to travel on the legs of flies! Stop flies by keeping animals away from the house, keeping the house clean and always using the toilet. Think of all the ways germs can get into our mouths and what we can do to stop them.
The loss of water and salts makes the body weak. Unless these are replaced, diarrhoea can kill young children quickly from dehydration.
The loss of water and salts makes the body weak. Unless these are replaced, diarrhoea can kill young children quickly from dehydration. Treat children with diarrhoea with Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) and food. For every time a child or baby has a watery poo give them a drink or ORS. Keep feeding babies breast milk and it’s important to make sure children eat nutritious food even if they don’t feel like it!
When babies and young children lose too much water they show signs of dehydration. We can learn to recognise the signs of dehydration in babies and share what we learn with our families.
ORS is a special drink that is very easy to make at home. Learn how to make ORS here. Help our younger brothers and sisters drink ORS and eat when they have diarrhoea.
Read the story Rosa Meena Saves a Life and learn more about looking after a baby with diarrhoea.
Diarrhoea can be prevented by giving extra safe drinks like safe water or coconut or rice water. Babies need breast milk most of all.
When we have diarrhoea extra safe drinks like coconut or rice water will help our diarrhoea get better. We can use these drinks when we don’t have any Oral Rehydration Salts. Other drinks should always use boiled water. Breast milk is the best drink for babies and when a baby has diarrhoea they need it most of all.
A child with diarrhoea may have a dry mouth and tongue, sunken eyes, no tears, loose skin, cool hands and feet and in babies a sunken soft spot on the head.
Our bodies need water to live and grow. Without water our bodies stop working and can die. When we have diarrhoea we lose water and if we don’t put more water back into our body we can become dehydrated. When a young child or baby gets very dehydrated there are signs that tell us we need to give Oral Rehydration Salts immediately and get help from a health professional.
Play the labelling game to test our knowledge of all the signs of dehydration in a baby.
Look at how plants need water to grow – find out what happens when plants don’t have water.
Make a poster to show others these danger signs so they can get help when they need to.
Children doing more than 5 watery poos/day or with bloody poo or who become sick MUST be seen by a health worker.
When we have a lot of watery poo that happens quickly and are sick and vomit, we may have a dangerous disease called cholera. When we have blood in our poo we may have dysentery. Cholera and dysentery are very dangerous and can kill us so we must get help from a health worker. If we have had diarrhoea for several days, we also need to get help from a health worker. We can learn to recognise when diarrhoea cannot be treated at home and we need to get help from a health worker.
ORS stands for ‘Oral Rehydration Salts’. Find ORS at clinics & shops. Mix it right with clean safe water to make the best drink for diarrhoea.
When we have diarrhoea we need to have a special drink called ORS – ‘Oral Rehydration Solution’ and a special medicine called zinc. ORS puts the water and salts that we have lost from our poo back into our bodies.
Children should learn how to make ORS at home, which drinks are safe when we don’t have any ORS and the danger signs that mean we need to get help from a health worker. We should also make sure our First Aid Kits at home and at school have ORS.
Most medicines do not work, but zinc pills stop diarrhoea sooner for children over 6 months. ORS drinks MUST be given as well.
Most times when we have diarrhoea, other medicines and antibiotics do not help and may make us feel worse. Zinc pills can help stop us pooing so often and get better more quickly. We must always take ORS when we have diarrhoea even if we are taking zinc pills as well.
Young children with diarrhoea need tasty, mashed food as often as possible to make their bodies stronger.
When we have diarrhoea we lose the nutrients that help us grow as well, we lose the water we need for our body to work properly. When we have diarrhoea we need to eat nutritious food. When a baby has diarrhoea they should still have breast milk to drink even if they don’t want to eat. After children have diarrhoea, foods like mashed fruit, cooked meat, fish, cereal of beans will help them build up their strength again. Add a small spoonful of oil to help make swallowing easier.
Diarrhoea can be prevented by breastfeeding babies, good hygiene habits, immunisation (especially against rotavirus and measles) and by making sure food is safe.
If we all work together we can stop diarrhoea! We can learn to keep ourselves clean by washing our hands before eating and after using the toilet. We can help keep our environment clean by always using the toilet, by keeping our homes clean and cleaning poo from animals and babies safely by putting it in the latrine or burying it away from the house and away from our water sources. We can encourage our mothers to keep breastfeeding our little brothers and sisters as long as possible. And we can make sure we have all our immunisations on immunisation days. Together we can help stop diarrhoea!
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