Diarrhea in Children

Signs, Symptoms & Causes

Questions to Ask


Diarrhea is when you pass stool many times a day, and it is watery and loose. (Passing stool is called having a “bowel movement.”)


Diarrhea is one way your child’s body fights infection. Diarrhea can also clean out your child’s intestines when he or she eats something bad. Children get diarrhea often, especially mild diarrhea.


Breast-fed babies have many soft bowel movements in a day. They may pass stool every time they eat. Twelve or more bowel movements a day is O.K. This is not diarrhea. Bottle-fed babies don’t have as many bowel movements. Even so, 1 or 2 loose stools is not diarrhea. In a baby, diarrhea is many very runny bowel movements.


Watch out for dehydration. Dehydration is when your body doesn’t have enough water. This is very important if your child is throwing up, too. Dehydration can happen very fast in babies and young children.


Many things can cause diarrhea:

•  Infection by viruses, bacteria, or parasites (A virus is the most common cause. Your child may also throw up, have a fever, have a runny nose, and/or feel very tired. Children can catch these viruses at school or daycare.)

•  Eating too much of foods they are not used to.

•  Food poisoning.

•  Allergies. (Example: milk allergy).

•  Taking too many laxatives. (Example: Teens trying to lose weight sometimes take laxatives.)

•  Taking some medicines. (Example: Antibiotics.)

•  Getting upset.

•  Drinking bad water or food while traveling.

•  Catching an infection from someone else who has been travelling.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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