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Diarrhea, Age 11 and Younger (cont.)

Check Your Symptoms

Home Treatment

As soon as you notice that your child has diarrhea, it is important to take action to prevent dehydration. Oral rehydration solutions (ORSs) are used to prevent or correct dehydration in young children. ORSs contain the right mix of salt, sugar, potassium, and other minerals to help replace body fluids lost from diarrhea. It may be wise to keep some ORS on hand so that if your child develops diarrhea, you can start replacing lost fluids immediately. ORS will help prevent dehydration, but it will not stop the diarrhea.

The amount of ORS your child needs depends on the severity of his or her dehydration. The more severe the dehydration, the more ORS you will need to give your child.

Newborns and babies through 1 year of age

Don't wait until signs of dehydration develop to replace lost fluids. Signs of dehydration include your baby being thirstier than usual and having darker urine than usual.

  • If you breast-feed your baby, feed your baby more often to replace lost fluids. Give an oral rehydration solution (ORS) between feedings only if signs of dehydration develop.
  • If you use a bottle to feed your baby, increase the number of feedings to make up for lost fluids. The amount of extra fluid your baby needs depends on your baby's size and the severity of his or her diarrhea. For example, a newborn may need as little as 1 fl oz (30 mL) at each extra feeding while a 12-month-old baby may need as much as 3 fl oz (90 mL) at each extra feeding. Give an ORS between feedings only if signs of dehydration develop.
  • If signs of mild or moderate dehydration develop, the amount of breast milk, formula, or ORS your baby needs depends on his or her weight and the degree of dehydration present. You can give the ORS in a dropper, spoon, or bottle. Continue to give the ORS until your baby's stools return to normal.
  • If your baby has started eating cereal, you may replace lost fluids with cereal. Offer the cereal mixture after each diarrhea stool. You may also offer any other foods that your child has had before.

Children 1 year through 11 years of age

  • Oral rehydration solution (ORS) or plain water (if the child is eating food) may be used to replace fluids lost from diarrhea.
    • Offer your child 0.5 cup (120 mL) to 1 cup (240 mL) of fluids after each diarrhea stool.
    • Allow your child to drink as much fluid as he or she wants.
  • If diarrhea is persistent or if your child is dehydrated, using an ORS as the main source of replacement fluids is the safest approach.
    • The amount of ORS your child needs depends on his or her weight and the degree of dehydration present.
    • Keep giving the ORS until your child's stools return to normal.
  • Cereal may also be used to replace lost fluids. Offer 0.5 cup (120 mL) to 1 cup (240 mL) of the cereal mixture after each diarrhea stool.
  • Give your child frequent small meals, at least 6 a day, while he or she is having diarrhea.
    • The best foods for your child are easily digestible foods, such as rice cereal, pasta, breads, cooked beans, mashed potatoes, cooked carrots, applesauce, and bananas.
    • Pretzels or salty crackers can help your child replace the salt lost from diarrhea.
    • Foods containing large amounts of sugar or fat should be avoided.

General tips

  • Avoid giving your child juice, chicken broth, soda pop, sports drinks, ginger ale, or tea. These drinks do not contain the right mixture of minerals and sugar to replace lost fluids and may make the diarrhea worse.
    • Do not offer soda pop, juice, ice cream, or candy, because they contain a lot of sugar and lack the calories and minerals your child needs.
    • You may use plain water to replace lost fluids if your child is older than 1 year of age and is eating food.
  • Do not withhold food from your child. Studies have shown that children who are fed easily digestible foods have shorter episodes of diarrhea.
  • If your child drinks cow's milk, he or she may continue to drink it.
  • Do not give your child prescription or nonprescription medicine to stop diarrhea unless you are told to do so by your child's doctor.
  • Protect the diaper area with zinc oxide or another cream. Diaper rash is common after diarrhea. For more information, see the topic Diaper Rash.
  • Wash your hands and your child's hands thoroughly after each diaper change and before each feeding.
  • Until your doctor has assured you that your child's diarrhea is not infectious, your child should not attend school or day care.
  • Learn how to clean up diarrhea safely. Protect your hands with gloves while cleaning up. Wash your hands after you are done cleaning up.

If your child is also vomiting, learn about home treatment for vomiting.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • Diarrhea gets worse despite home treatment.
  • Increasing belly pain develops.
  • Blood in diarrhea develops.
  • Signs of dehydration develop. These include your child being thirstier than usual and having darker urine than usual.
  • Diarrhea and a fever lasts longer than 48 hours.
  • Symptoms become more severe or frequent.
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