Home Care Advice for Diarrhea
- Most diarrhea is caused by a viral infection of the intestines.
- Diarrhea is the body's way of getting rid of the germs.
- Here are some tips on how to keep ahead of the fluid losses.
Formula-Fed Infants WITH frequent, watery diarrhea: Start Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS)
- Continue regular diet.
- Eat more starchy foods (e.g., cereal, crackers, rice).
- Drink more fluids. Formula or milk are good balanced fluids for diarrhea. (EXCEPTION: avoid all fruit juices and soft drinks because they make diarrhea worse).
Returning to Formula
- ORS (e.g., Pedialyte or the store brand) is a special electrolyte solution that can prevent dehydration. It's readily available in supermarkets and drug stores.
- Start ORS for frequent, watery diarrhea (Note: Formula is fine for average diarrhea).
- Use ORS alone for 4 to 6 hours to prevent dehydration. Offer unlimited amounts.
- If ORS not available, use formula prepared in the usual way (unlimited amounts) until you can get some.
- Avoid Jello water, sports drinks, or fruit juice.
- Go back to formula by 6 hours at the latest. (Reason: needs the calories)
- Use formula prepared in the usual way. (Reason: It contains adequate water).
- Offer the formula more frequently than you normally do.
- Lactose: Regular formula is fine for most diarrhea. Lactose-free formulas (soy formula) are only needed for watery diarrhea persisting over 3 days.
- Extra ORS: also give 2-4 ounces (60-120 mls) of ORS after every large watery stool.
Breastfed Infants WITH frequent, watery diarrhea:
- Infants over 4 months old: Continue solids (e.g., rice cereal, strained bananas, mashed potatoes, etc).
Older Children (over 1 year old) WITH frequent, watery diarrhea:
- Continue breastfeeding at more frequent intervals. Continue solids as for formula-fed.
- Offer 2-4 ounces (60-120 mls) ORS (e.g., Pedialyte) after every large watery stool (especially if urine is dark) in addition to breastfeedings.
- Fluids: Offer unlimited fluids. If taking solids, give water or half-strength Gatorade. If refuses solids, give milk or formula.
- Avoid all fruit juices and soft drinks. (Reason: makes diarrhea worse)
- ORS (e.g., Pedialyte) is rarely needed, but for severe diarrhea, also give 4-8 ounces (120-240ml) of ORS after every large watery stool.
- Solids: Starchy foods are absorbed best. Give dried cereals, oatmeal, bread, crackers, noodles, mashed potatoes, rice, etc. Pretzels or salty crackers can help meet sodium needs.
Diaper Rash: Wash buttocks after each stool to prevent a bad diaper rash. Consider applying a protective ointment (e.g., petroleum jelly) around the anus to protect the skin.
Contagiousness: Your child can return to child care or school after the stools are formed and the fever is gone. The school-aged child can return if the diarrhea is mild and the child has good control over loose stools.
Expected Course: Viral diarrhea lasts 5-14 days. Severe diarrhea only occurs on the first 1 or 2 days, but loose stools can persist for 1 to 2 weeks.
Call Your Doctor If:
- Probiotics contain healthy bacteria (Lactobacilli) that can replace unhealthy bacteria in the GI tract.
- YOGURT is the easiest source of probiotics. If over 12 months old, give 2 to 6 oz (60 to 180 ml) of yogurt twice daily. (Note: Today, almost all yogurts are "active culture".)
- Probiotic supplements in granules, tablets or capsules are also available in health food stores.
- Signs of dehydration occur
- Diarrhea persists over 2 weeks
- Your child becomes worse
And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.
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Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For more information, click here.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. Clinical content review provided by Senior Reviewer and Healthpoint Medical Network.
Last Review Date: 6/1/2011
Last Revised: 8/1/2011 2:56:15 PM
Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
Version Year: 2012
Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.