Diarrhea, or loose stools, is common in toddlers, and usually goes away in a day or two. But if your child gets dehydrated, it can be harmful. Find out what causes diarrhea and how you can treat it.
Diarrhea is common in young children, and is usually nothing to worry about. However, you should always get a child with diarrhea checked by your doctor, to determine the cause and advise the right treatment.
Let’s look at some of the signs of diarrhea in toddlers, some possible causes, and how it might be treated:
Signs of diarrhea in toddlers
The most obvious sign of child diarrhea is the diarrhea itself. You know what is normal for your child, and if this suddenly changes – becoming more frequent and looser – you’ll want to make a doctor’s appointment.
Diarrhea can quickly cause a child to become dehydrated, which can be dangerous. The symptoms of this include:
- Sunken eyes
- Dry mouth
- Not producing tears
- Peeing less often (check for wet nappies)
- Darker urine
Serious symptoms of diarrhea
If your child is dehydrated, or is showing any of the following symptoms, you should seek medical advice urgently:
- Diarrhea continuing to worsen
- Blood or mucus in the poo
- Severe stomach pain
What causes toddler diarrhea?
Many different things can cause child diarrhea, so it’s important to let your doctor determine the cause. Possible causes include:
- Tummy bug caused by a viral or bacterial infection
- A chronic condition called toddler diarrhea
- Ear infection
- Parasitic infection
- Too much fruit juice (the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 4 to 6 ounces (116-170ml) of juice per day for a toddler)
- Food intolerance or allergy – always be vigilant when your toddler tries a new food
Treating diarrhea in toddlers
Your doctor will advise on the best course of action for treating child diarrhea, depending on its cause, but here are some suggestions you can follow at home:
- Offer your toddler their usual food (ensuring a healthy, balanced diet). Foods such as bananas, toast, rice, potatoes and other starchy complex carbohydrates can help.
- Make sure your child is drinking enough to stay hydrated. Toddlers can have water alongside their usual breast or formula milk feeds.
- Avoid sugar, fruit juice, fizzy drinks and sweetened desserts.
- Eliminate high-fiber and fatty foods until they’re recovered.
- Oral rehydration salts (that you mix with water) can help to prevent dehydration caused by diarrhea, but check with your doctor first.
- Never give a toddler any anti-diarrhea medication that hasn’t been prescribed for them.
- If your child is still in nappies, ensure that you change them immediately when soiled. Use plain water or a mild soap to clean the area and apply a nappy cream to help prevent irritation.
Baby diarrhea treatment
If you have a younger baby with diarrhea you should continue to offer breast milk as normal. Speak to your doctor before giving a baby oral rehydration salts or any other medication.
How to stop diarrhea in children
Depending on the cause, your child’s diarrhea may have been impossible to prevent. However, practicing good hygiene (washing hands frequently and properly with soap and warm water) can help stop some of the viruses that cause diarrhea from spreading.
Children with diarrhea should be kept away from other children until at least 48 hours after their symptoms improve.
Children who have had diarrhea in the last two weeks should avoid public swimming pools.
Diarrhea in a toddler is common and usually easily treated, but that doesn’t make it any more pleasant for you or your little one. Lots of fluids, a healthy balanced diet, practicing good hygiene and a trip to the doctor are usually the best toddler diarrhea remedy!