Diarrhea is when stools (bowel movements) are loose and watery. Your child may also need to go to the bathroom more often.
Diarrhea is a common problem. It may last 1 or 2 days and go away on its own. If diarrhea lasts more than 2 days, your child may have a more serious problem.
Diarrhea may be either:
Diarrhea may be caused by many things, including:
Children who visit some foreign countries are at risk for traveler's diarrhea. This is caused by having food or water that is not safe because of bacteria, viruses, or parasites.
Severe diarrhea may mean a child has a serious disease. Talk with your child's healthcare provider if symptoms don’t go away. Also talk with the provider if symptoms stop your child from doing daily activities. It may be hard to find out what is causing your child’s diarrhea.
Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. They can include:
The symptoms of diarrhea may look like other health problems. Severe diarrhea may be a sign of a serious disease. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. Your child may have lab tests to check blood and urine.
Other tests may include:
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Dehydration is the major concern with diarrhea. In most cases, treatment includes replacing lost fluids. Antibiotics may be prescribed when bacterial infections are the cause.
Children should drink lots of fluids. This helps replace the lost body fluids. If your child is dehydrated, be sure to:
Proper handwashing can reduce the spread of bacteria that may cause diarrhea.
A rotavirus vaccine can prevent diarrhea caused by rotaviruses. Ask your child's healthcare provider which vaccines are right for your child.
When you travel, make sure anything your child eats and drinks is safe. This is even more important if you travel to developing countries.
Travel safety tips for drinking and eating include:
Talk with your child's healthcare provider before traveling.
Call your child's provider if your child is less than 6 months old or has any of the following symptoms:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s health care provider: