Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital



What is diarrhea?

Diarrhea is defined either as watery stool or increased frequency (or both) when compared to a normal amount. It is a common problem that may last a few days and disappear on its own.

Diarrhea may be:

What causes diarrhea?

Diarrhea in children may be caused by a number of conditions, including the following:

Many people suffer "traveler's diarrhea" caused by a bacterial infection or a parasite, or even food poisoning.

Severe diarrhea may indicate a serious disease, and it is important to consult your physician if the symptoms persist or affect daily activities. Identifying the cause of the problem may be difficult.

What are the symptoms of diarrhea?

The following are the most common symptoms for diarrhea. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Severe diarrhea may indicate a serious disease, making it important to consult your child's physician if any/all of the following symptoms persist:

The symptoms of diarrhea may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

Warning signs of severe diarrhea:

You should call your pediatrician if your child is less than 6 months of age or presents any of the following symptoms:

How is diarrhea diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history, physical examination and laboratory tests for blood and urine, the child's physician may request:

Treatment for diarrhea:

Specific treatment for diarrhea will be determined by your child's physician based on:

Treatment usually involves replacing lost fluids. Antibiotics may be prescribed when bacterial infections are the cause.

To replace the body fluids that are lost with diarrhea, children should drink glucose-electrolyte solutions (for example, Pedialyte or Infalyte). These fluids have the right balance of water, sugar and salts, and some are available as popsicles. Avoid caffeine, milk products, foods that are greasy, high in fiber, or very sweet because they can make diarrhea worse. Avoid just plain water. If breastfeeding, continue to do so.

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