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Diarrhea - what to ask your doctor - child

Diarrhea is when your child has more than three very loose bowel movements in 1 day. For many children, diarrhea is mild and will pass within a few days. For others, it may last longer. It can make your child feel weak and dehydrated. It can also lead to unhealthy weight loss.

A stomach or intestinal illness can cause diarrhea. It can also be a side effect of medical treatments, such as antibiotics and some cancer treatments.

Below are questions you may want to ask a health care provider if your child has diarrhea.



  • What foods can make my child's diarrhea worse? How should I prepare the foods for my child?
  • If my child is still breastfeeding or bottle feeding, do I need to stop? Should I water down my child's formula?
  • Can I feed my child milk, cheese, or yogurt? Can I give my child any dairy foods?
  • What type of bread, crackers, or rice is best for my child?
  • Can I feed my child any sweets? Is artificial sugar OK?
  • Do I need to worry about my child getting enough salt and potassium?
  • Which fruits and vegetables are best for my child? How should I prepare them?
  • Are there foods my child can eat to prevent too much weight loss?


  • How much water or liquid should my child drink during the day? How can I tell when my child is not drinking enough?
  • If my child will not drink, what are other ways to get my child enough fluids?
  • Can my child drink anything with caffeine, such as coffee or tea?
  • Can my child drink fruit juices or carbonated drinks?


  • Is it safe to give my child medicines from the store that may help slow the diarrhea down?
  • Do any of the medicines, vitamins, herbs, or supplements my child is taking cause diarrhea?
  • Are there medicines I should stop giving my child?


  • Does having diarrhea mean my child has a more serious medical problem?
  • When should I call the provider?

Alternative Names

What to ask your doctor about diarrhea - child; Loose stools - what to ask your doctor - child


Bhutta BA. Acute gastsroenteritis 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.

Schiller LR, Sellin JH. Diarrhea In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 16.

Review Date 11/19/2015

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.

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