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How to Treat Diarrhea and Dehydration in Infants and Children

My son came down with a severe case of diarrhea when he was one year old. It lasted for three days and we had to take him to the ER.

REVIEWED BY
Dr. Heather Finlay-Morreale, Pediatrician, University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Group

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What to Do to Stop Infant Diarrhea

"Probiotics, whether in powder form or in foods with live cultures such as yogurt or kefir can help diarrhea," says Dr. Heather Finlay-Morreale, a pediatrician with University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Group. "Babies should continue to nurse or take formula. Milk does not need to be stopped. Smaller, more frequent feeds may be helpful."

  • Continue nursing or offering formula
  • Smaller, more frequent feedings may help
  • For older children, offer probiotics in food or powder form.

When Should I Contact the Doctor About My Baby's Diarrhea?

According to Dr. Finlay-Morreale, reasons to call your doctor about diarrhea include:

  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Stool that is white, black, tarry, or red
  • Dehydration
  • Prolonged diarrhea
  • A large volume of stools per day
  • If there has been recent international travel or camping
  • Persistent vomiting
  • If your baby is under three months old.

Symptoms of Diarrhea in Infants

Diarrhea is characterized by the appearance of watery and loose stools more than three times in 24 hours. In most cases, diarrhea will go away on its own. However, it can lead to dehydration, which is a serious problem.

An infant's poop is already soft. Babies who are breasted typically have runnier poop than babies who are fed formula.

With that in mind, even an infant can get diarrhea. When this happens, the poop is even looser, more watery, and there may be more of it than a regular poopy diaper.

Applesauce (not sliced apples) can help treat diarrhea as apples have a binding effect on poop. Applesauce is also a hydrating food.

Applesauce (not sliced apples) can help treat diarrhea as apples have a binding effect on poop. Applesauce is also a hydrating food.

What Are the Symptoms of Dehydration in Infants and Children?

The biggest concern when it comes to diarrhea is dehydration. The body loses more water when the poops are more watery than usual, so it's important to look for signs of dehydration.

Keep an eye out for:

  • weight loss
  • dry or sticky mouth
  • lack of tears
  • fast heartbeat
  • poor skin turgor (when the skin on the back of the hand stays elevated after it is pulled up and released)
  • sunken eyes
  • lethargy
  • limpness
  • decreased number of wet diapers
Toddlers and older children can eat toast when recovering from diarrhea.

Toddlers and older children can eat toast when recovering from diarrhea.

Foods to Treat Diarrhea or Dehydration in a Baby

If your child is eating solid foods and can keep food down, continue to feed them normal foods (avoiding some of the items below). Doctors no longer recommend limiting food to the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast).

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The following diet plan can help your baby recover.

  1. Strict oral rehydration solution like Pedialyte every 4-6 hours. This is the most important step. Do not let your baby dehydrate. Continue breastfeeding or giving formula. Watch carefully how the baby reacts to milk and decide whether to temporarily stop feeding milk. Sometimes nothing can stay in the stomach. If your baby refuses milk, try Pedialyte.
  2. Bland foods. If you have started giving solids to your baby, feed her applesauce, strained banana, saltines, strained carrots, strained squash, mashed potatoes(no additives), rice cereal and oatmeal. You can also feed her toast, crackers, breads, pretzels, rice, mashed potatoes (no additives), noodles (no additives), bananas, applesauce, carrots, squash, Rice Krispies, Cheerios, oatmeal, and yogurt with active cultures.
  3. Milk products. Some babies may become lactose intolerant during this time, so consult your pediatrician.
  4. No oils or butter.
  5. No spicy foods or sauces until diarrhea subsides.

Note: You should always consult with your child's doctor before starting any kind of medication or if you have any doubts.

Check out the video below for more information about how to detect dehydration.

Mashed bananas can help resolve diarrhea. Bananas have a binding effect on poop and can help settle the stomach as well.

Mashed bananas can help resolve diarrhea. Bananas have a binding effect on poop and can help settle the stomach as well.

When a Baby Needs Hospitalization to Treat Diarrhea

When he was one year old, our son got a severe case of diarrhea that lasted for three days. We ended up going to the emergency room because he became completely dehydrated. He completely recovered after the doctors gave him intravenous fluids, but we were in the hospital for two days.

It was heartbreaking to watch the nurses search for a vein to insert the IV. It is very hard to find a vein when the person is dehydrated. We learned a lot from that experience and I wrote this article as a guide for parents so they know how to treat diarrhea in their own infants and children.

Rice cereal is a good food to offer your baby when they have diarrhea.

Rice cereal is a good food to offer your baby when they have diarrhea.

Possible Causes of Infant Diarrhea

  1. Teething
  2. Changes in the mother's diet, if the infant is breastfed.
  3. Infections such as norovirus (the flu).
  4. Rotavirus (preventable with a vaccine). This virus spreads easily through hand contact with germs.
  5. Bacterial infections from contaminated food and water. Common bacteria include Salmonella, Escherichia coli (E.coli), and Campylobacter.
  6. Inflammation such as inflammatory bowel disease.
  7. Celiac disease.
  8. Milk or other protein intolerance.
  9. Carbohydrate malabsorption (including lactose intolerance), or “toddler’s diarrhea” a chronic diarrhea where undigested food matter is seen in stool are all causes of diarrhea.
  10. Parasites such as Giardia lamblia, Cryptosporidium, and Entamoeba histolytica.
  11. Reaction to medicines: Antibiotics, blood pressure medications, antacids containing magnesium, and cancer drugs can cause infant diarrhea.
Toddlers and older children can eat saltine crackers when recovering from diarrhea.

Toddlers and older children can eat saltine crackers when recovering from diarrhea.

How to Prevent Diarrhea

  1. The winter months are prime time for norovirus. Be careful to wash your hands and your child's hands after being in public places and before eating. Hand sanitizer does not kill norovirus so soap and water work best.
  2. Some diarrhea illnesses are spread by food, so careful washing of produce and thorough cooking of meat and eggs is advised.
  3. Hygiene is key to prevent one member of the house from spreading diarrhea to the rest of the house. Hands should be washed with soap and warm water after handling dirty diapers or vomit.
  4. Use bleach wipes to clean bathrooms and changing tables.

How to Prevent Dehydration

Do Antibiotics Cause Diarrhea?

"Antibiotics cause diarrhea in a few ways," says Dr. Finlay-Morreale. "Amoxicillin-clavulanate causes diarrhea in many people due to the clavulanate portion. Others are thought to disrupt the gut flora and cause diarrhea. Finally, a certain bacteria, c. difficile, can overgrow following antibiotic use and cause severe diarrhea."

What Type of Anti-Diarrhea Medicine Will My Doctor Prescribe?

According to Dr. Finlay-Morreale, anti-diarrheal medication is typically not used in children. Both the two most common ones, bismuth salicylate and loperamide, are not advised for children.

Typically, antibiotics are only used if a bacterial infection is confirmed by stool culture. If there is vomiting as well as diarrhea, ondansetron can treat the vomiting but can make diarrhea worse.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2008 blessedmom

Comments

Mary Woodward on April 03, 2020:

Hi my daughter is 2 months old she keeps spiting up all of her milk i give her and has done nothing but poop i am worried what can i do

Fakunle Funmilola Lara on February 24, 2020:

What can I use to stop my 18months old boy his having diarrhea.its 6 days now.please help me out thanks

Portia mphana on May 30, 2019:

How to stop diarrhea for teething

angel on April 03, 2019:

My 8month old start Messina soft and running for days now sometime it soft then it little form and I'm worried

Lizzy on January 24, 2019:

my baby is 9month and his suffering from diarrhea and dehydration, please what do I do to stop it.

Susan on January 07, 2019:

My baby has been dehydrated pls ways to rehydrate

Lisha on December 19, 2018:

My daughter is 8 months and had diarrhea from past one month. I have consulted my doctor and started antibiotics but there is no use in it. She poops for 5 to 7 times a day. The poop will be moderate some time and some time watery so can someone suggest me how to stop the diarrhea.

stanly on September 06, 2018:

the best way to deal with dehydration in babies with diarrhoea is coconut water

Gladys on August 31, 2018:

Can a 2 month old baby start growing teeth

Heather on August 27, 2018:

My child just turned 15 motnhs on the 10th of august. She is goin to get her 15 month shots this wed. She has had diarrhea All day yesterday an then woke up early this morning around 4 somthing almost 5 with diarrhea. an its 6:17am where im at an already has went twice. What color should i watch out for!? Or how to help stop it!

Kaylee on August 17, 2018:

Is it normal for a 6 month old baby to poop 6 times a day?

Seema on August 16, 2018:

Hi my baby is six months n had diarrhea for two days but i see some mucus with a streak of slight red please help someone really worried

july caesar on May 23, 2018:

my baby is 4 months he was 15 lbs and now he is 12 lbs and he has been suffering from diarrhea from last 2 weeks and he is also vomiting and bloody diarrhea when he drink formula milk and he stopped breastmilk when he was in 2 months and he is a g6pd defiencist we went to doctor and not getting better what should i do for my baby plz advice me

july caesar on May 23, 2018:

my baby is 4 months and he has been suffering from diarrhea from last 2 weeks and he is also vomiting when he drink formula milk and he stopped breastmilk when he was in 2 months he is a g6pd defiencist we went to doctor and not getting better what should i do for my baby plz advice me

Gabby on May 20, 2018:

My 10 mons old baby had a diarhea with stomach pain for 5 days..Help some advice...

Marfelia Santibanez on May 13, 2018:

My son is 2 years old he been having diarrhea almost for 2 weeks he eats fine i took him to his doctor they did some tests on him i need help i dont know what to do please help me

SHERYL on April 24, 2018:

I have a 20 month old with diarrhea need help I took her camping a week ago help

Mina on April 13, 2018:

My 5 month baby has diarrhea so much i do breastfeed and formula.i dont know what to do plz some one help me i am really nervos

Gorakhp patil on March 27, 2018:

My 10 month son has effect theeting vomit fever loos mosooin please what type of medicine use

Sia on March 18, 2018:

My three months old has had a diarroea nd it is green nd it is lose. I don't breastfeed I use formula

Jo on March 08, 2018:

My baby has diarrhoea for a week now took her to emergency her dr nothing they can do just make sure she’s not hydrated

Poor baby

I change her to non dairy I’m afraid she will get dehydrated is there something they can give to stop this virus

damion on March 04, 2018:

My 14 month old has had diarrhea for the past week. Quite explosive. Just gave her toast. Gonna buy some apples today. Was planning to start her on apples now she's got 4 teeth

Tamica on February 26, 2018:

my baby is 6 months, and has had diarrhea for three months now, his pediatrician prescribed two different types of formula but none of them works. what shall I do next? please help me out as soon as possible.

Kimie on February 12, 2018:

My 1 year old son vomit and also have diarrhoea,what should i do please help

Mohammad Asif on February 06, 2018:

I have my 10 months make baby he is suffering from diareia from last one night doctor suggest ORNIDOX-NT but still not controlled please suggest.

Mpho on December 18, 2017:

my child had a runny tummy for 3weeks,I gave his salt sugar solution to keep him hydrated, and introduced the brat diet he got better now his tummy started again ..I'm so confused as too how is this possible! But it happens more when he had liquids and he loves his juice an milk im so torn.

His stoll is lampy and a bit greenish and yellowish..

mashilo on December 17, 2017:

My baby ha diarrhea and passes watery stool, and it's green soe times. She also vomits unless we feed her bit by bit. 4 days have passed, doctor gave medication but nothing is working.

Mommyof5 on December 15, 2017:

My baby girl has had diarrhea since the 3rd and these damn doctors can't figure out what wrong with her someone help me please

Eunice on December 14, 2017:

My 1.5 mo baby is having diarrhea throughout the day. He is passing loose stool whenever he farts. This is different from his bowel movement previously. He produce 2 dirty diapers everyday previously, today it is a total of 10 during the day itself. Please advise.

Brandy on November 28, 2017:

Breast milk is NOT dairy...

Faith on October 15, 2017:

My child isbtwo monthsvand has a runny tummy since last week I don't know what else to do I took him to the doctor and clinic but still the same

Jennifer on October 07, 2017:

My 3 month old daughter is having diarrhea and throw up since she was born. She was on Similac advance , Similac for spit up and now she been on Similac soy milk for the pass 4 days and the doctor said I will see a different in 48 hours but my daughter is still having diarrhea and throwing up. I need help what can I do next for her.

Cynthia on September 19, 2017:

My child 16 months old has been diarrhea for the last one week and half what should do. He doesn't eat only water and breastfeedng. thank you

Dushyant Dodiya on September 18, 2017:

Hello Sir, My baby is 2.5 Month old. She has diarreah for last 24 hours and not stop it. paediatric dr. say watch some time its normal. how to stop diarreah home made madicine and what food taken by my wife because my baby took breast feeding and Dixolac Milk Powder. Please suggest.

Constance on March 20, 2017:

My baby has diarreah for two weeks and it does not stop I took her to the clinic but noting has change. She doesn't eat she only drink the formula only

onma ogenyi on March 07, 2017:

Thanks

Asia Sabri on December 15, 2015:

Thanks for all your advice

ravi on December 23, 2014:

my baby girl is two months old she is not going for bowl since last five days, we are giving breastfeed milk, giving colic drops for colic pain . please kindly suggest me for bowl

Mavis Delali Adeku on November 09, 2014:

My child is suffering from dirrhea for some weeks now and l have try all can but still what should l do to help l need help ooo am convinced.

EmmaD on July 07, 2014:

If your little one will not take the rehydration products because,lets face it, they taste nasty- then perhaps this tip from the pediatrician might help. Make up the rehydration product according to the instructions then FREEZE it in little pieces,perhaps an ice cube tray or lolly moulds. They are more likely to take more of it in and they don't realise its medicine. Good luck xx

Tushar on May 02, 2013:

thank u that is very informative

ella on April 22, 2013:

my baby is five months, and he has almost a week of diarrhea. then started vomiting but not a lot. hes drinking formula and pedlitye. But i still take him to the docter. he says take him home and if hes still not drinking come back to me but that's what he says all the time . still its getting worse. could you tell me how to stop the dirrehha

Hana on June 07, 2012:

My 7 month baby had a fever of 103c then she vomit twice and loose motion.I took her to doc he told me it's not virus..Bcoz she has high fever.

JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on March 28, 2012:

This hub is really informative. I have a 10-month old baby and i hope that I don't find myself in such a dilemma.

Tiffany on March 17, 2012:

Thank you so much! My twins are suffering from diarrhea! And have been for 3 weeks ever since their daddy went out to sea. I am not sure what is going on at this point, but now I know what diet they need. Thank you!

Grandma Luna on March 12, 2012:

My daughter and family is in Disneyland. The youngest has diarrhea. That's good to have web site that gives good sound advice, Thank you .

paps on March 12, 2012:

my 14 month old daughter started with sickness early hours thursday morning, she started with dierreah thursday afternoon, she has seen a doctor on thursday that was concerned about her becoming de-hydrated, so i followed his advice and friday when she was no better i took her back to the doctors and they gave her some dioralyte to replace any lost salts n vitamins, will this keep her hydrated?? she is not herself, is not interested in playing and spends a lot of the day sleeping, throwing her self around as doesn't no what she wants or sat cuddling me! i don't want to go back to the docs n look silly if i don't need to-whats ur advice??

i have also stopped giving her milk all she is having is water.

-she has sore lips

-she is slapping her lips together(suggesting she is thirsty)

-poo is very very watery and yellow with a strong smell

-lots of trumps

-dark circles around both eyes

Jen on January 13, 2012:

When your baby is sick, you should allow them to breastfeed MORE not less. Human breast milk is not a dairy product. This article is very ill-informed, and sadly it seems that the doctors that got you confused with a cow were as well. If you want information on how to help your breastfed baby when they are ill go to kellymom.com

http://www.kellymom.com/health/illness/baby-illnes...

Hilton Dominguez on December 19, 2011:

im going crazy as a dad reading n trying to do the right thing. we have a 6 month old boy who got sick 4 days ago for his first time. i took him to the doctor plus ER already they say give it a few more days to allow the virus exit his system. fever is controlled now hovering around 99 to 100...was vomiting some yesterday but today is just diahhrea w every breast feed.....he is irritable n very fatigued...eyes droopy...im scared he gets dehydrated so im starting to give more water now which he has a lot of interest in plus a little but of applesauce. mild productive cough...hoarsed vocals...i cant wait to c him get thru this already...ive consider stopping the breastmilk but not sure thas a great idea....anyhow thanks all of u for sharing ur exper n thoughts very calming hearing other cases....these stomach virus r something else......my poor kid i hate seen him like this soo needy n winy without energy.....im monitoring his temp n checkng for signs of dehyd......hopefully he can recover tmrrw cuz mommy needs to go to work n he just wants to b in her arms plus i can t breast feed lol.....

rita on December 16, 2011:

i was very worried about my 9 months baby who is having diarhea almost for 5 days naw.but naw am calm cause i read same of your experience naw.thanx a loy

umm on December 09, 2011:

thank u soo much.. the best advice anyone could have given..

Erin on December 08, 2011:

Please use actual medical advice not this article. I don't imagine any doctor would suggest stopping breastfeeding during a bout of diarrhea. Nor is gastroenteritis the flu. Please don't state your opinion as fact. People please use common sense. My lo has had diarrhea for almost a week. Still nursing and feeding soy milk and most other regular diet. She's a happy little bug.

Declan's Mummy on December 08, 2011:

Hi 'needs advice'...did your sons diarrhea settle down? My nearly 12 week old son has had diarrhea for 4 weeks now. He got the rotavirus 2 days before he was due for the immunisation. the virus gave him shocking diarrhea, but it kept continuing so the paediatritian told me that he has most probably become temporary lactose intolorent because it stripped the lining and good bacteria from his gut, so I am on a strict no lactose diet (breastfeeding) to fix the problem, but that has been 10 days now, and while he doesn't seem in pain anymore, he still has diarrhea! Im off to the doctors next week but need advice too!!!

bettermom on December 05, 2011:

my girl is just four months old and she stool up to five times in a day,she shows lots of discomfort before she stool and its always watery, draws and a little green in colour.I also noticed that her diaper doesn't get soak with her urine like before but her stool is much and smelly.she has already started on solid(rice cereal with infant milk).she's not gaining weight eighther.is it ok as she stool?how can she gain weight?

S. Walker on November 28, 2011:

hi my 8 month old has had diarrhea since friday and its monday now i gave her pedialyte all day yesterday and 1 bottle of her milk last night today i have changed 3 diarrhea diapers buts its just ben a small amount now does that mean that its getting better??? or should i still take her to the doctor???

Emma from UK on November 23, 2011:

Great advise here Blessed mom. I was searching as I needed to double check, my son is lactose intolerant and has caught a bug, he is pooing coloured liquid. I have re-hydration powders.

Jessie Jane Gamotin baylin on November 22, 2011:

tanx for much info..my baby is 1year old and is suffering from fever,vomiting and diarrhea and i don't know what to do.she doesn't want to eat and im so worried cause shes getting thinner.

needs advice on November 14, 2011:

my 7month old son caught gastroentritous and has watery diarrhea for 4weeks, my doctors don't seem to care. He has also supposdly went lactose intolerent even though they haven't even tested for it and after nearly two weeks on lactose free milk he has still got this watery diarrhea that is going up his back through all his clothing. Ive had no support from health visitor who thought i was an anxtious mum as my child had sever diarria. i feel i have no help from medical profesionalls and feel this has went on for some time. im at my wits end....

Ryan's mommy on October 07, 2011:

If you are going to keep Breastfeeding when your child has diarrhea, which I think is great, then you need to ensure that you eliminate all dairy from your diet. It is also very important to keep an eye out for any foods that you may be consuming that can be affecting your child. A breastfeeding mom, when their child has diarrhea, will want to be on a bland foods diet to rule out any food intolerance/allergy their baby may have developed until the child is fine again.