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Quick reference medical handouts used by Pediatric offices

Antibiotic Associated Diarrhea


Click to read: When to worry about my child's diarrhea

Like all medications, antibiotics have side effects. One of the most common is antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD) — a condition that affects up to 20 percent of children receiving antibiotic therapy.

In healthy children, there are many different species of bacteria that live inside the intestines. Some are beneficial to the body, others are harmless, but a few have the potential to cause disease. Under normal circumstances, the "bad" bacteria are far outnumbered, and the bowel's natural ecological system tends to keep them under control. All of this can change dramatically when a child begins treatment with an antibiotic. The antibiotics destroy some of the intestines normal bacteria, altering the delicate balance and allowing an overgrowth of the "bad" bacteria. . In most cases, the result is only a mild case of short-term diarrhea that goes away promptly after antibiotic treatment ends.  Hpwever, the diarrhea can become severe and lead  electrolyte disturbances, dehydration, crampy abdominal pain, colitis (severe inflammation of the intestinal lining) , toxic megacolon or even death

Occasionally, however, an antibiotic eliminates so many of the bowel's "good" and harmless bacteria that the aggressive "bad" ones are free to multiply out of control. The antibiotic most likely to cause diarrhea is  was Augmentin (Amoxil, Trimox)  which is a combination of the commonly used antibiotic amoxicillin and clavulanate. .

Other antibiotics that have been especially implicated in severe colitis include the class of antibiotics known as the cephalosporins  (Ceftin, (Vantin). erythromycins (Erythrocin), the fluoroquinolones (Cipro, Floxin) and tetracyclines (Terramycin, Dynacin) Anditbiotic associated diarrhea can  Problems occur whether the child takes the antibiotics by mouth or receives them by injection.

AAD is fairly common is children, particularly young children. If the antibiotic is necessary, then it should be continued. The best treatment is time since once the antibiotic is stopped, the AAD symptoms go away.

Can antibiotic-associated diarrhea be prevented?

  • Give your child  antibiotics only when their health care providers feel they are necessary.
  • Take antibiotics exactly as they are prescribed. Do not increase the dose, the time between doses, or the number of days you give them the medication unless instructed to do so by your doctor.
  • When possible, avoid giving your child antibiotics that caused them to have diarrhea in the past.

For cases of mild antibiotic-associated diarrhea, try the following suggestions:

  • Consult your child's doctor to see if the antibiotic should be changed
  • Have your youngster drink plenty of fluids to replace any body water that has been lost to diarrhea. You can try plain water, soft drinks, sports drinks, broth or over-the-counter oral rehydration fluids depending on their age
  • Temporarily avoid milk products and foods that contain wheat flour (bread, macaroni, pizza), since your digestive tract may be unusually sensitive to them for a few days. Also temporarily avoid high-fiber foods, such as fruits, corn and bran.
  • Do not give your child  antidiarrhea medicines without first checking with your doctor. These medicines may interfere with your intestine's ability to pass harmful bacteria and toxins out of your body through the stool.
  • Some physicians will recommend giving the child Lactobacillus GG , a strain of bacteria that helps restore the normal intestinal bacterial balance.

posted on 1-2-04



As a reminder, this information should not be relied on as medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice of your child’s pediatrician. Please read our full disclaimer.

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