Diarrhea in Children
Diarrhea refers to frequent (greater than six per day) loose stools. Gastroenteritis (intestinal infection that causes diarrhea and sometimes belly pain, vomiting and/or fever) can last between 7 and 14 days. Though it sometimes can, diarrhea by itself usually does not result in dehydration. Therefore controlling the vomiting is often the key to hydration.
- If having diarrhea alone, your child may start with the BRATS (acronym for bananas, rice or rice cereal, applesauce, toast, saltines) diet. Once the vomiting child has tolerated clear liquids (no juice, no milk) for 8-12 hours, the BRATS diet may be introduced.
- Breastfed infants should continue to breastfeed through diarrhea — there is no better way to provide nourishment.
- Infants drinking formula may stool less by changing to a lactose-free formula (Lactofree, Prosobee, Isomil) for a few days.
- When the diet is advanced, whether by introducing foods in the child or toddler or by advancing to a milk based formula in a formula-fed infant, increased stools are to be expected. If the child seems hungry and happy, continue to feed him.
- It usually takes at least seven days for the small intestine to regrow the cells that make enzymes needed to digest food. Introducing foods helps this process to occur but creates more stools initially. Milk and juice may be poorly digested, contribute to cramps and gas, and should be avoided until simple foods are tolerated for a day.
- Anti-diarrheal medications are not recommended.
- Probiotics help restore the normal balance of healthy bacteria in our intestines, and may be given twice a day. Yogurt has some probiotics but generally not enough colonies of the bacteria to make a difference. We recommend BioGaia probiotic drops for infants or Culturelle or Florastor (there are kids versions) for older children.
Call our office if your child has a high fever, bloody diarrhea, is not taking clear liquids well, or you are concerned about dehydration.
Signs of dehydration include dry mouth or tongue, less than 4 wet diapers/24 hours up to age 1, or less than 3 wet diapers/24 hours in children older than age 1. If you see tears when your child cries, that is a sign that he is pretty well hydrated; however, no tears with crying does not necessarily mean they are dehydrated.