Current Environment:


Diarrhea is the sudden increase in the frequency and looseness of stools. It is usually defined as 3 or more watery stools a day. Most diarrhea is caused by a viral infection of the intestines. The main risk with diarrhea is dehydration. A good indication of hydration is if the child is urinating at least once every 6-8 hours.

Symptom Management

Formula-Fed Babies With Frequent, Watery Diarrhea:

  • Keep giving formula but feed more often. Offer as much formula as your child will take.
  • Solid Foods: If on baby foods, continue them. Cereals are best.

Breastfed Babies With Frequent, Watery Diarrhea:

  • Give your baby breast milk more often.
  • Also, give some extra fluid if you think breast milk isn’t keeping up with the fluid losses. You can use formula or Pedialyte.

Children Over 1 Years Old With Frequent, Watery Diarrhea:

  • Offer as much fluid as your child will drink. If they are able to eat solid foods, water is fine. So is half-strength Gatorade or apple juice.
  • If your child will not eat solid foods, give milk or formula as the fluid.
  • Do not use most fruit juices, full-strength sports drinks, or soft drinks as they often make diarrhea worse.
  • Solid Foods: Starchy foods are easiest to digest. Offer cereals, bread, crackers, rice, pasta, or mashed potatoes. Pretzels or salty crackers will help add some salt to meals. Some salt is good.

Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) Such as Pedialyte to Prevent Dehydration:

  • ORS is a special fluid that can help your child stay hydrated. You can use Pedialyte or the store brand. It can be bought in food stores or drugstores.
  • Start ORS for frequent, watery diarrhea if you think your child is getting dehydrated. Continue giving breast milk, formula, or cow’s milk.
  • Amount for Babies: Give 2-4 ounces after every large watery stool.
  • Amount for Children Over 1 Year Old: Give 4-8 ounces after every large watery stool. Caution: Do not give ORS as the only fluid for more than 6 hours. Your child will need calories.

Probiotics and Yogurt:

  • Probiotics contain healthy bacteria that may replace harmful bacteria in the gut.
  • Probiotics may be helpful in reducing the number of diarrhea stools.
  • Yogurt is the easiest source of probiotics. If over 1 year, give 2-6 ounces of yogurt twice daily.
  • Probiotic supplements in liquids, granules, tablets or capsules are also available in health food stores.

Diaper Rash Prevention:

Wash buttocks after each stool to prevent diaper rash. Consider applying a protective ointment (e.g., petroleum jelly) around the anus to protect the skin.

Expected Course

Viral diarrhea usually lasts 5-14 days. In most cases, severe diarrhea will only occur during the first 1 to 2 days, however loose stools may persist for 1 to 2 weeks.

When to Call the Office

  • Signs of dehydration occur.
  • Blood appears in the stool.
  • Diarrhea lasts longer than 2 weeks.
  • Your child becomes worse.


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The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.