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Diarrhea can cause weakness and discomfort in children.1 If left untreated, it can even lead to dehydration.1 Learn all about the common causes and effective diarrhea treatment for kids to help your child get back on his feet.

Why Diarrhea Happens: 4 Most Common Causes

Diarrhea treatment depends on what causes it in the first place. Many things can lead to diarrhea in children, but the most common causes are:


Often brought about by rotavirus and other viruses and bacteria such as salmonella.2 This may also occur due to parasites like giardia2, although it’s quite rare. Symptoms include watery or loose stools, nausea, vomiting, headache, stomachache, and fever.2

Food poisoning

Symptoms include vomiting, which typically appears immediately and goes away within 24 hours.2


Adverse effects of some medicines like antibiotics and laxatives.


Diseases such as Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, food allergies, ulcerative colitis, and celiac disease.2

Take note: If you’re uncertain of the cause of your child’s diarrhea, don’t guess. Call a doctor, especially if your child is at risk of dehydration3

Two Types of Diarrhea

Diarrhea can be acute and chronic.

Acute diarrhea lasts for about one to two days before going away on its own. The main causes of this diarrhea include bacterial infection because of contaminated water or food or viral infection.3

On the other hand, chronic diarrhea can last up to several weeks. This usually occurs because of other health problems, like intestinal disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or Crohn’s disease.3

To-Do List When Your Child Has Diarrhea

Here are some things you need to do when your child has diarrhea.

1. Replenish lost fluids

For older kids, drinking a bit of water is okay. However, don’t let him drink too much water alone, regardless of your child’s age.3

Offer him glucose-electrolyte solutions instead. These will help replenish lost electrolytes and contain the proper balance of sugar, salts, and water. Some are even available as popsicles for easy administration.3

Continue breastfeeding babies.3 They are less likely to experience diarrhea, but should they develop it, breastmilk is the primary fluid they need. Don’t give them pure water.3

2. Talk to a doctor

Never administer medicines to a child with diarrhea without consulting a doctor first.2 Talk to your child’s pediatrician about the best way to counter dehydration, too.2

3. Offer probiotics

If your child’s doctor permits it, you can also offer your child probiotics to replenish good bacteria in the gut. This is also effective in preventing diarrhea because of an imbalance in the gut microbiota.4

4. Switch to a diarrhea-friendly diet

Most of the time, it’s okay to continue feeding a child with diarrhea. It should go away on its own without treatment1.

Eating small meals has been proven to be more beneficial than three big meals in a day1. Some changes in diet can also help1. Offer food such as:

✓  Baked or broiled pork, beef, fish, or chicken1

✓  Boiled eggs1

✓  Fresh fruits like bananas1

✓  Applesauce1

✓  Bread products1

✓  White rice or pasta1

✓  Cornflakes, oatmeal, and cereals1

✓  White flour waffles and pancakes1

✓  Baked potatoes1

Some foods and drinks that should also be avoided1, including:

✓  Soda and other carbonated drinks1

✓  Milk and other dairy products1 (except breastmilk for babies)

✓  Greasy foods1

✓  Processed and fast foods1

✓  Sausages1

✓  Pastries1

✓  Gas-causing veggies, like peppers, beans, berries, peas, prunes, corn, broccoli, and green leafy vegetables1

Signs of Diarrhea

Very young children won’t be able to tell you exactly what they feel. They may not even know that they have diarrhea, so it’s up to you to determine what’s wrong.

Diarrhea symptoms may differ depending on the child, the cause, and many other factors. For a start, here are some signs you need to look out for:

Cramping and stomach or abdominal pain – observe the child and watch for signs of pain along the abdominal area.3

Swelling (bloating) – check if the child’s belly is harder than usual. This is also often accompanied by gas, which means the child may burp or pass gas often.3


Sudden and frequent need to use the bathroom3


Bloody stools3

Dehydration – Watch out for signs such as lack of tears when crying1, sunken eyes1, sticky or dry mouth1, less pee in the diaper1, and cool or dry skin. Prevent this as much as possible, as it means diarrhea has already gone on for too long.

Incontinence3 – intense urge to urinate and involuntary loss of urine. Watch out for dark, cloudy, or bloody urine as well.

Manage Diarrhea in Children

Diarrhea can leave children weak and ill, but in most cases, it passes on its own. Help your child feel better sooner with effective diarrhea treatment. But if symptoms persist, consult your healthcare provider.

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