The most important treatment for young children with vomiting or diarrhea is to keep them adequately hydrated. This means giving them plenty of breast milk, formula, electrolyte solution or other fluids.
Using electrolyte replacement solution at home
For severe dehydration, hospitalization is sometimes necessary so that your child can be rehydrated with intravenous (IV) fluids. With milder cases of dehydration, all that may be needed is to give your child an electrolyte replacement solution according to your pediatrician's directions.
This table shows the approximate amount of electrolyte solution to be used:
*Note: This is the smallest amount of fluid that a normal child requires. Most children drink more than this.
Breastfeeding to keep your child hydrated
Exclusively breastfed babies are less likely to develop severe diarrhea. If a breastfed infant does develop diarrhea, generally you can continue breastfeeding, giving additional electrolyte solution only if your doctor feels this is necessary. Many breastfed babies can continue to stay hydrated with frequent breastfeeding alone.
Returning to a normal diet after diarrhea
Once diarrhea is decreasing and your child wants to eat, you gradually may expand their diet with a goal of returning to their usual diet as they can tolerate it. Sometimes, drinking milk worsens diarrhea. So, in children over one year of age, your pediatrician may recommend holding off on milk. Or, they may advise giving lactose-free formula or milk for a period of time.
It is not necessary to withhold food for longer than 24 hours. Your child will need some normal nutrition to start to regain lost strength. After you have started giving them food again, their stools may remain loose. However, that does not necessarily mean that things are not going well. Look for increased activity, better appetite, more frequent urination, and the disappearance of any of the signs of dehydration. When you see these, you will know your child is getting better.
When sugary drinks cause diarrhea
If your child drinks too much fluid, especially too much juice or sweetened beverages as mentioned earlier, a condition commonly referred to as toddler's diarrhea could develop. This causes ongoing loose stools but shouldn't affect appetite or growth or cause dehydration. Although toddler's diarrhea is not a dangerous condition, your pediatrician may suggest that you limit the amounts of juice and sweetened fluids your child drinks. Ideally, toddlers and children should mainly drink plain
water and milk.
Talk with your child's pediatrician any time you are worried about their health.