Home Emergencies: preparadness and reponse Injury prevention Child protection HIV and AIDS Malaria Hygiene Coughs, colds and more serious illnesses Diarrhoea Immunization Nutrition and growth Breastfeeding Child development and early learning Safe motherhood and newborn health Timing births
Facts for Life


Supporting Information


A child's life is in danger if she or he has several watery stools within an hour or if there is blood in the stool. Immediate help from a trained health worker is needed.

Parents should immediately seek help from a trained health worker if the child:

  • passes several watery stools in an hour
  • passes blood in the stool
  • vomits frequently
  • has a fever
  • is extremely thirsty
  • does not want to drink
  • refuses to eat
  • has sunken eyes
  • looks weak or is lethargic
  • has had diarrhoea for several days.

If the child has any of these signs, help from a trained health worker is needed urgently. In the meantime, the child should be given ORS solution and/or other liquids, plus zinc.

If the child passes several watery stools in one hour and vomits, there is cause for alarm – these are possible signs of cholera. Cholera can kill children in a matter of hours. Medical help should be sought immediately and the child should continue to receive ORS solution and zinc.

  • Cholera can spread throughout the community quickly through contaminated water or food. Cholera usually occurs in situations where there is poor sanitation and overcrowding.
  • There are four steps to take to limit the spread of cholera or diarrhoea:
    1. Always wash hands with soap and water or a substitute, such as ash and water, after defecation, after contact with faeces, before touching or preparing food, before eating and before feeding children.
    2. Dispose of all faeces, including those of infants and young children, in a latrine or toilet, or bury them. Disinfect the places touched by the faeces.
    3. Use safe drinking water.
    4. Wash, peel or cook all foods.

Trained health workers and health centres should provide families and communities with clear information on the risks of diarrhoea and cholera and what steps to take when either one occurs.