How to Care for a Child With Diarrhea

A child has diarrhea when he or she passes three or more watery stools a day. It is important to realize that the more numerous the watery stools, the more dangerous the diarrhea. Some people think that drinking liquids makes diarrhea worse. This is not true. A child with diarrhea should be given drinks as often as possible until the diarrhea stops because drinking lots of liquids will help the child replace fluids lost during diarrhea. It is vital to give liquids to a child with diarrhea; dehydration can lead to death for babies and toddlers if not treated quickly.


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    Check for symptoms of diarrhea.. The main symptom is having loose, watery stools more than three times a day. Other possible indicators that may be present include:
    • stomach pains
    • vomiting
    • complaints of pain when passing stools
    • nausea
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    Seek immediate attention from a medical professional or health care worker if the following signs are also present. To know if you need to seek immediate medical attention, check for these signs:
    • passing several watery stools in only one to two hours
    • presence of blood or mucus in the stools
    • high fever
    • loss of appetite - does not want to eat and/or drink
    • sunken eyes
    • extreme thirst
    • weakness or lethargy
    • persistence of diarrhea for one week or longer
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    Note that if you need to take your child to emergency care, administer an ORS solution during transportation and waiting.
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    Keep the child well hydrated. For a child that can be treated at home, give the child liquids as often as possible, and definitely after each stool movement. Breastfeed or formula feed infants as often as possible.
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    Give liquids to children the following amounts:
    • for a child under the age of two years: contact you doctor because this changes with weight and age.
    • for a child aged two or older: between a quarter and half a cup every 20 minutes. Your child might refuse to drink more than a few sips at a time, which is fine if they are drinking about a quarter of a cup throughout the 20 minutes.
    • your child isn't likely to drink all the liquid for the 20 minutes in a just a few minutes. Encourage them to drink some more every 2 to 5 minutes.
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    Select appropriate liquids for your child. Good choices include:
    • breastmilk or formula (breastfeed or offer formula more often than normal)
    • soups
    • rice water
    • weak tea with a little sugar
    • clean water from a safe source. If there is a possibility the water is not clean, it should be purified by boiling or filtering.
    • Avoid drinks high in sugar such as undiluted juice, and sports drinks.
    • Pedialyte is specially formulated to replace needed electrolytes lost during diarrhea or vomiting. It is low is sugar, comes in a variety of flavors, and also comes as frozen pop sticks.
    • oral rehydration salts (ORS) mixed with the proper amount of clean water.
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    Be patient but persistent. If the child vomits the drink up, wait for 10 minutes and begin again. Give the drink to the child slowly and in small sips each time. You can encourage this by using medication spoons and syringes.
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    Continue with high level of liquids until the diarrhea has stopped.


  • Diarrhea usually stops after three or four days. If it lasts longer than one week, caregivers should seek help from a trained health worker.
  • Use a clean cup. All drinks must be given in a clean cup. Do not use a feeding bottle because it is very hard to keep clean and reinfection might occur and continue to cause diarrhea.
  • Dehydration is the loss of body fluids. Body fluids are made of salt and water and a heavy loss of body fluids from a child can lead to death in a short space of time.


  • If the child's diarrhea looks like rice water, contact a doctor. This is a surefire sign of severe cholera.

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Categories: Childhood Health