How Do You Treat Diarrhea In Babies And Toddlers
Diarrhea will usually ease up on its own within a few days. In the meantime, your priority is helping your child stay hydrated and offering foods that will be gentle on her stomach, if she has an appetite. If your little one isnt vomiting or showing signs of dehydration, its fine to let her eat and drink as normal.
Check with your pediatrician about what to give your toddler for diarrhea and baby diarrhea treatments. Here are some things you can do for baby or toddler diarrhea:
How Can I Tell If My Baby Has Diarrhea
- She passes smelly, watery, mucus-streaked stools as often as she is fed, after the first month. See our and compare your babys stools.
- She has a fever, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, stomach pains or appears to be losing weight. See your doctor or pediatrician if this is the case .
Managing Your Stress Can Help Keep Digestive Symptoms At Bay
If you dont have other symptoms and are just looking for ways to calm a troubled stomach, consider taking steps to manage your stress.
Its just a warning sign. Your body is under wear and tear, its a warning sign that you need to rein in your stress and take care of yourself, Keefer said. The worst thing you can do is to become fixated on it.
Instead of obsessively focusing on your digestive system, practice habits for general stress reduction, such as getting exercise, trying to get plenty of sleep, and using deep breathing or mindfulness techniques to restore a sense of calm.
Thinking about it as a temporary thing, it can really take the edge off, she said. Theres a benefit to accepting it, that whats happening may be uncomfortable and unpleasant but it will pass.
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What Should Prompt A Call To The Doctor
Green poop might look a little yucky, but its usually not a sign of anything to worry about.
However, if you notice a red color to your babys stools, you might look closer. Red stools might just be the after-effects of your babys affinity for eating beets or foods and beverages containing red dye. Certain medications can also turn your babys stools a rosy color.
But actual blood in the stools could signify bleeding in your babys gastrointestinal tract. It might be bright red blood, or it could be a darker, maroon shade. So, if you see blood of any shade, call your childs pediatrician.
Something else to watch out for: if your baby starts having bowel movements that are a very pale color. One white, pale yellow, or light gray stool might just be an anomaly, but if you start to notice it becoming a trend, check with your doc.
These pale stools could be a sign that your baby has a problem with their bile ducts, like a blockage.
When the flow of bile is interrupted, it can cause scarring and long-term damage to the liver. This is rare in infants. One of these conditions, called biliary atresia, can progress quickly and needs treatment.
How Can I Keep My Child From Getting Diarrhea
Frequent hand washing for everyone in the house is your best defense against infectious diarrhea, because the microorganisms that cause diarrhea are easily passed from hand to mouth. Thoroughly wash your child’s hands as well as your own for at least 15 seconds with soap and warm water before eating or preparing food, and after handling soiled diapers or using the bathroom.
As your child gets older, encourage her to keep her hands away from her face, for example, by sneezing into her elbow instead of her hand.
Your child can also catch a diarrhea-causing infection by putting her fingers in her mouth after touching toys or other objects that have been contaminated with the stool of an infected child. That’s one of the reasons daycares and schools have rules that require kids who have diarrhea to stay home. When you have a playdate at your house, clean shared toys and the play area afterward.
Diarrhea is often one of the reasons to keep your child home from daycare. Find out what other symptoms mean your child is too sick to go to daycare.
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Causes Of Acute Diarrhea
- Virus . An infection of the intestines from a virus is the most common cause.
- Bacteria . Less common cause. Diarrhea often contains streaks of blood.
- Giardia . More likely in child care center outbreaks.
- Antibiotic Diarrhea. Many antibiotics cause mild diarrhea. This is not an allergic reaction. Keep giving the antibiotic. Call your doctor if any serious symptoms occur.
- Serious Causes. Most bacterial diarrhea goes away on its own. A few can cause a severe large bowel infection . C. difficile is a serious cause that can occur after being on strong antibiotics.
- Serious Complication: Dehydration. This is the health problem where the body has lost too much fluid. .
What Does Baby Diarrhea Look Like
Bottle-fed babies tend to have tan-brown poop, while breastfeeding infants have loose, yellow, and seedy stool. So how can you tell the difference between baby diarrhea vs. normal poop? Start by examining the frequency of their bowel movementsnot just the texture.
When a baby is very young it’s typical to see a bowel movement every time they eat or even more often. After a month, the dirty diapers should slow down to about three or four per day after two months, they can be as infrequent as once per day to one per week. But if your baby has diarrhea, they’ll poop two or three times more than normal.
In addition, baby diarrhea looks watery, and it usually comes in high volumes. The color can range from yellow to green to dark brown. Babies with diarrhea may also act agitated and fussy, and they might have trouble feeding. These side effects can occur with bottle-fed baby diarrhea and breastfed baby diarrhea.
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Before You See Your Pediatrician About Baby Diarrhea
While understanding the signs associated with diarrhea is important, you should consider making a list of questions before you see your baby’s pediatrician to ensure you have all your bases covered.
- Write down all your baby’s issues and your concerns, including answers to these questions:
- When did you first notice your baby’s diarrhea?
- How often is your baby experiencing diarrhea in a day?
- Is it explosive diarrhea?
Preventing Green Poop In Babies
Prevention boils down to the cause. If its a benign cause and no other problems are showing up, you probably dont have to worry about it. For example, you wouldnt want to stop feeding your baby those healthy green veggies just to change the color of their poop.
But if your baby is experiencing green poops as the result of an illness like a stomach bug, it might be time to take preventive action.
Of course, you cant prevent every illness, but you can take care to wash your hands thoroughly before and after changing your babys diaper and when preparing food, so youre less likely to pass along any viruses that could upset their stomach.
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Is There A Color Of Diarrhea That I Should Be Worried About
The color of your poop can vary. Stool color can be influenced by the color of the food you eat. Usually, this isnt something you need to worry about. But if you ever see red in your stool or have a bowel movement that is black, that could be something more serious. Keep a record of any bowel movements that:
- Are black and tarry.
- Have blood or pus in them.
- Are consistently greasy or oily despite non-fatty meals.
- Are very foul-smelling.
How Can I Tell If My Baby Or Young Child Has Diarrhea
If your child’s bowel movements suddenly change that is, he poops more than usual and passes looser, more watery stools than usual then it’s probably diarrhea. An occasional stool that’s looser than normal for your baby or child, though, is generally nothing to worry about.
Most cases of diarrhea in the United States are relatively mild and don’t pose a major health threat, as long as your child doesn’t get dehydrated. Dehydration can be very serious, even fatal, especially for a baby, so it’s crucial that you make sure your child is getting plenty of liquids.
How long diarrhea lasts and what the best treatment is depend on the cause.
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Treatment Of Mild To Moderate Diarrhea
If your baby or toddler has diarrhea but no other symptoms and is behaving completely normally and eating normally, you may not have to seek treatment or make any adjustments to her diet.
Continue to feed her regularlyâwhether that’s with solid food, breast milk, or formulaâas the episode of diarrhea may clear up on its own. If anything, you may consider reducing portion sizes of solid food.
If your child is vomiting in addition to having diarrhea, you might consider giving her a store-bought electrolyte solution in place of her normal diet. But check with her healthcare provider first. Ask any questions you may have, especially about dosage and when to give the solution.
Can Babies Get Diarrhea From Teething
Its easy to assume that teething can be a cause of diarrhea if the two events just so happen to occur at the same time. But doctors say there isnt really an established link between the two. Parents anecdotally report symptoms related to teething, such as loose stools, but this shouldnt be true diarrhea, Lockwood says. The thought is that the increased saliva related to teething is swallowed and makes the stools looser.
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How Can Parents Help
For kids who show signs of mild dehydration, doctors recommend giving oral rehydration solutions such as Pedialyte, Enfalyte, or a store brand. It has the right amount of water, sugar, and salt to help with dehydration. These are available in most grocery stores and drugstores without a prescription. Your doctor will tell you what kind to give, how much, and for how long.
Dont give kids with diarrhea sports drinks, soda, or full-strength juice. They have too much sugar and can make some symptoms worse. Also, dont give water alone.
In some cases, kids with severe diarrhea may need to get IV fluids at the hospital treat dehydration.
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What About Baby Diarrhea
Newborn babies normally have soft, squishy poops, especially if theyre breastfed only. They also poop a lot sometimes several times a day. So it can be hard to know if they have diarrhea or not.
However, if your infant has stools that are very runny or larger in size maybe even leaking out of their diaper and are more frequent than usual, then they have diarrhea.
If your baby is partly or completely formula-fed, they might have less watery or loose poops. Formula milk usually gives babies firmer poops that are light tan in color. Diarrhea in formula-fed babies will still be a bit watery, though the color can vary just as with normal stool.
Dehydration: How To Know
- Dehydration means that the body has lost too much fluid. This can happen with vomiting and/or diarrhea. A weight loss of more than 3% is needed. Mild diarrhea or mild vomiting does not cause this. Neither does a small decrease in fluid intake.
- Dehydration is the most important complication of diarrhea. Dehydration is a reason to see your doctor right away.
- These are signs of dehydration:
- Dry tongue and inside of the mouth. Dry lips are not helpful.
- Dry eyes with decreased or absent tears
- In babies, a depressed or sunken soft spot
- Slow blood refill test: Longer than 2 seconds. First, press on the thumbnail and make it pale. Then let go. Count the seconds it takes for the nail to turn pink again. Ask your doctor to teach you how to do this test.
- Fussy, tired out or acting ill. If your child is alert, happy and playful, he or she is not dehydrated.
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Most babies with moderate diarrhea should be able to eat a normal diet. If they eat solid foods or baby food, continue to give them those foods as normal. Cereals and more starchy foods like rice, crackers and pasta are best because they are easy to digest.
Consider Infant Probiotics For Diet Issues
You may have heard more about probiotics or prebiotics and gut bacteria health lately. A healthy gut microbiome is important at any age, and both prebiotics and probiotics are thought to help sustain and grow the good bacteria in your babys tummy. Infant probiotics can help support your baby’s digestive health.
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Offer Lots Of Liquids
“Infants with diarrhea are especially susceptible to dehydration because, pound for pound, their small bodies lose liquids faster than older children or adults,” says Rebecca Cherry, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. Because your baby is losing fluids from diarrhea and probably isn’t eating as much, you should offer them the breast or bottle more often, as well as a pediatric oral rehydration drink, if your doctor says it’s okay. “Don’t switch formulas without your doctor’s consent and don’t give fruit juice. Sugary drinks like juice can worsen diarrhea symptoms,” says Dr. Cherry. That’s because some kids aren’t able to digest the sugars easily.
When Should You Take Your Child To The Doctor For Diarrhea
A single bout or two of diarrhea probably isnt cause for concern so when is it time to worry?
- Since fluid loss is the main concern with loose stools, you should call the pediatrician if you notice your baby is showing signs of dehydration or you see dehydration symptoms in your toddler, including the following:
- Fewer than four wet diapers in 24 hours in babies, or peeing less often in toddlers
- Urine that looks darker or more concentrated than usual
- Dry or cracked lips or dry mouth
- Tearless crying
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How Doctors Diagnose Colic
The doctor may be able to tell if your baby has colic from their symptoms. You can help. Over a few days, write down:
- When your baby cries and for how long
- What the cry sounds like. Is it high-pitched or louder than usual?
- What seems to make them fussy
- What, if anything, works to calm them down
- How often and what your baby eats
- When your baby poops, and what the stools look like
The doctor will likely do an exam to check if your baby is fussy for other reasons, such as:
- Food allergies or sensitivities to something in your diet, if you breastfeed
- Discomfort, such as if they are too hot or too cold
- Hunger or weakness
- Pain from an illness or injury
Diet Issue: Baby Diarrhea Due To An Allergy
If your baby has diarrhea after all or almost all feedings, this may be a clue that an allergy is to blame. If your baby has this experience, check with your doctor to see if they might suspect a cows milk allergy . Research shows that about 3-7% of babies have a cows milk allergy. In these cases, babies are allergic to proteins found in cows milk and other dairy products. The proteins casein and whey are often culprits. Other symptoms of CMA can include:
It’s important to talk to your baby’s doctor if you’re concerned that an allergy is causing your baby’s diarrhea. Beyond an elimination diet, there are CMA tests for infants to help identify if dairy is the cause.
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Can I Manage Diarrhea Without Taking Any Medication
When you have an acute case of diarrhea, you can often take care of it without needing any medication. Several things you can do to care for diarrhea include:
- Drinking plenty of water and other electrolyte balanced fluids and caffeine-free sodas). Make sure to hydrate throughout day. Your body loses water each time you have diarrhea. By drinking plenty of extra fluids, you are protecting your body from dehydration.
- Changing your diet. Instead of picking greasy, fatty or fried foods, go for the BRAT diet:
Sometimes, diarrhea can also make you lactose intolerant. This is usually temporary and it means that you need to avoid items with lactose until your diarrhea is gone.