First Aid: Diarrhea

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Parents

First AidMost cases of diarrhea (runny or watery bowel movements) are caused by gastrointestinal (GI) infections. Diarrhea usually is not a sign of a serious illness, but it can cause kids to lose fluids, salts, and minerals. If your child has diarrhea, it's important to make sure fluids and nutrients are replaced.

Signs and Symptoms

  • loose and frequent stools
  • cramping tummy pain
  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • feeling tired
  • weight loss
  • dehydration

What to Do

Depending on the amount of fluid loss and the severity of diarrhea, your doctor will probably instruct you to:

  • continue your child's regular diet and give more liquids
  • offer additional breast milk or formula to infants
  • use an oral rehydration solution (ORS) to replace lost fluids

Do not offer plain water to infants — it doesn't contain enough sodium and other minerals. Avoid apple juice and other sweet drinks because they may make diarrhea worse.

Seek Medical Care

If Your Child:

  • is younger than 6 months old
  • has severe or prolonged diarrhea
  • is younger than 12 months old and has a fever of 102ºF (38.8ºC) or higher
  • vomits repeatedly or refuses to drink fluids
  • is urinating less than usual
  • has severe abdominal (belly) pain
  • has diarrhea that contains blood or mucus

Think Prevention!

Make sure kids wash their hands well and often to avoid getting infected with germs that can cause diarrhea. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating, and refrigerate meats as soon as possible after buying them and cook them until they're no longer pink.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2014



Related Resources

OrganizationCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The CDC (the national public health institute of the United States) promotes health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.
OrganizationNorth American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (NASPGHAN) NASPGHAN works to help children and adolescents with digestive disorders.


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Campylobacter Infections These bacterial infections can cause diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever. Good hand-washing and food safety habits can prevent them.
Helicobacter pylori H. pylori bacteria can cause digestive illnesses, including gastritis and peptic ulcer disease.
A to Z: Gastroenteritis Gastroenteritis is an infection that causes vomiting and diarrhea.
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Diarrhea Most kids battle diarrhea from time to time, so it's important to know what to do to relieve and even prevent it.
Pyloric Stenosis Pyloric stenosis is a condition that can cause your baby to vomit forcefully and often and may cause other problems such as dehydration and salt and fluid imbalances.




Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2014 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.



 

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