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Diarrhea in Children

Are There Foods That Cause Diarrhea in Children?

Several foods can cause diarrhea in children, such as:
 
  • Milk and dairy products (except yogurt): Milk protein allergy is one of the more common food allergies seen in young children. These products can also cause diarrhea in children with lactose intolerance.
     
  • Apple juice, pear juice, and cherry juice: These juices contain sorbitol, which is a complex sugar that can be hard for young children to digest. White grape juice is a good alternative.
     

When to Call the Doctor

If your child has diarrhea for more than 24 hours, call your child's healthcare provider. You should also call the doctor if your child has:
 
  • Watery diarrhea with repeated vomiting
  • Stool containing blood, mucus, or pus
  • A temperature above 101.4°F
  • Severe diarrhea (more than eight bowel movements in eight hours)
  • Signs of dehydration, such as:
 
    • Dry mouth and tongue
    • No tears when crying
    • No wet diapers for three hours or more
    • Sunken abdomen (stomach), eyes, or cheeks
    • Listlessness or irritability
    • Skin that does not flatten when pinched and released.
 

Treating Children With Diarrhea

When it comes to treating children with diarrhea, there are special concerns. Because of their smaller body size, infants and children are at greater risk of dehydration, which can be quite dangerous. In small children, severe diarrhea lasting just a day or two can lead to dehydration. Because a child can die from dehydration within a few days, the main treatment is rehydration.
 
Giving special fluids by mouth (called oral rehydration therapy) is the most effective diarrhea treatment to prevent dehydration. Oral rehydration solutions, such as Pedialyte®, can replace lost fluids, minerals, and salts. Special fluids used for oral rehydration can be found in most pharmacies or grocery stores and can be purchased without a prescription.
 
Parents of children with severe diarrhea should start oral rehydration and take their child for medical evaluation. In severe cases (such as those requiring a visit to the emergency room or hospitalization), treatment may involve replacing body fluids through the veins using an intravenous (IV) line.
 
Medications to treat diarrhea in adults can be dangerous to children and should be given only under a doctor's guidance.
 
If your child is still on cow's milk-based formula and has severe diarrhea that has lasted more than three days, talk to your healthcare provider about switching to a soy formula for two weeks while the intestines have time to heal. Intestines that have been damaged by severe diarrhea cannot digest cow's milk.
 
(Click Stomach Flu Treatment or Rotavirus Treatment for more information on options for children with diarrhea. For details on treating very young children, click Infant Diarrhea.)
 
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Diarrhea Information

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