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Infant Diarrhea

Signs of diarrhea in infants may include such things as an increased number of bowel movements that may appear with other symptoms often caused by infections (such as acting tired, or having a fever). One of the most common causes of diarrhea among infants is viral gastroenteritis (the "stomach flu"). When it occurs in an infant, diarrhea can present special health concerns; infants with diarrhea can become dehydrated in a short period of time. Using oral rehydration solutions can help prevent or treat dehydration while the infant recovers.

Is This Normal? -- Or Is It Infant Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is defined as loose, watery, unformed stools occurring more than three times in one day. It is not the occasional loose stool or the frequent passing of formed stools.
However, it seems like every bowel movement with infants fits the definition of diarrhea. They are runny, unformed, and frequent; they have various odors and colors; and in most cases, these bowel movements are normal. So how do you tell if your infant has diarrhea?
First of all, ask yourself if your infant has experienced a change in the frequency of his or her bowel movements. Each baby has his or her own pattern of bowel movements. If, over the last couple of days, your infant has had more bowel movements than usual, he or she may have diarrhea.
Another clue is whether or not your infant has any other symptoms. Because diarrhea can be caused by viruses or bacteria, it is not unusual for other symptoms to be present with diarrhea. This may include your infant acting sick, not wanting to feed, acting tired, having a runny nose, or fever.
Other questions that you may ask yourself to help determine if your infant has diarrhea include the following:
  • Have there been any changes in the diet (including your diet if you are breastfeeding)?
  • Is your infant teething? In some infants, teething can cause diarrhea, and diarrhea can be a first sign of teething.
  • Is your infant taking any medicines, such as antibiotics?
If you have answered yes to any of these questions, it is possible that your infant has diarrhea. In the rest of this article, we will discuss causes of infant diarrhea, what you should do if your child has diarrhea, and when you should see your healthcare provider.
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