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Diarrhea in infants

Children who have diarrhea may have less energy, dry eyes, or a dry, sticky mouth. They may also not wet their diaper as often as usual.

Give your child fluids for the first 4 to 6 hours. At first, try 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of fluid every 30 to 60 minutes. You can use:

  • An over-the-counter drink, such as Pedialyte or Infalyte -- do not water down these drinks
  • Pedialyte frozen fruit pops

If you are nursing, keep breastfeeding your infant. If you are using formula, use it at half strength for 2 to 3 feedings after the diarrhea starts. Then begin regular formula feedings again.

If your child throws up, give only a little bit of fluid at a time. You can start with as little as 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of fluid every 10 to 15 minutes.

When your child is ready for regular foods, try:

  • Bananas
  • Chicken
  • Crackers
  • Pasta
  • Rice cereal

Avoid:

  • Apple juice
  • Dairy
  • Fried foods
  • Full-strength fruit juice

The BRAT diet was recommended by some health care providers in the past. There is not a lot of evidence that it is better than a standard diet for upset stomach, but it probably can't hurt.

BRAT stands for the different foods that make up the diet:

  • Bananas
  • Rice cereal
  • Applesauce
  • Toast

Bananas and other solid foods are most often not recommended for a child who is actively vomiting.

WHEN TO CALL THE HEALTH CARE PROVIDER

Call your child's health care provider if your child has any of these symptoms:

  • Blood or mucus in the stool
  • Dry and sticky mouth
  • Fever that does not go away
  • Much less activity than normal (is not sitting up at all or looking around)
  • No tears when crying
  • No urination for 6 hours
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting

Alternative Names

When your infant has diarrhea; When your baby has diarrhea; BRAT diet; Diarrhea in children

References

Bhutta ZA. Acute gastroenteritis in children. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 340.

Update Date 7/10/2015

Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.