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What to Do If Your Baby or Child Has Diarrhea

Dr. Howard Bennett
Author Dr. Howard Bennett
Submitted 15-10-2007

Your child’s bowel movements will vary in consistency depending on his age and diet. Breastfeeding infants have up to 12 loose or runny stools per day, whereas formula-fed infants typically have 2 to 4 pasty stools per day. Toddlers and older children usually have one bowel movement every day or two. Diarrhea is the sudden appearance of bowel movements that are more frequent and looser than what is normal for your child. Mild diarrhea is the passage of a small number of mushy or loose stools. Moderate to severe diarrhea is the passage of large numbers of runny or explosive stools.

 

Diarrhea is usually caused by a viral infection of the gastrointestinal tract. Less commonly, gastroenteritis is caused by parasites or bacterial infections. Some other causes of diarrhea include food allergies, drinking too much juice, and lactose intolerance.

 

The common term for a viral infection of the intestinal tract is the “stomach flu,” though doctors call it gastroenteritis. The diarrhea that occurs is caused by injury to the lining of the intestine. This reduces the ability of the small intestine to absorb nutrients and causes a leakage of fluids into the large intestine.

 

The main complication of diarrhea is dehydration due to the loss of fluids from the body. Signs of dehydration include the following:

  • reduced urine production
  • dry mouth
  • lack of tears
  • sunken fontanelle (soft spot) in babies (It is normal for babies to have a slightly depressed fontanelle, so this sign is only helpful if you know what is normal for your child.)
  • dry, “doughy” skin
  • lethargy

If your child does not appear sick and has mild diarrhea, you can try to manage the condition by reducing his juice intake or removing lactose from his diet. If the symptoms persist, call your doctor for advice. If he has a fever, appears sick or dehydrated, has moderate to severe diarrhea or is vomiting, you should call your doctor right away.

 

 - Dr. Howard Bennett

3 comments
sandra
sandra

How do you stop them from crying ?

Jade
Jade

Ive got bad Belly ache and i dont know what to do & i think the diarrhea has cause this why do i have this ?

sam
sam

Hi my daughter is 7 months old. It appears that she has diarrhea. She had 3 very watery bowlmovements. She appears to be fine but I just feel that she lost alot of body water. She did leak tthru her diappear twice. its 11 pm so I wont be able to reach her pediatrician should I run and get some pedialite?