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Dealing with diarrhea in children

Dealing With Diarrhea in Children

What is diarrhea¹? Diarrhea is the sudden increase in the frequency and looseness of your child's stools. It can range from mild (a few loose or mushy stools) to severe (the passage of many watery stools). However, the best indicator of the severity of diarrhea is its frequency. Dehydration is the main complication of diarrhea, from the loss of too much body fluid. Learn the various reasons, signs, and remedies with information found in this helpful guide.

What causes diarrhea2?

Diarrhea is usually caused by gastroenteritis, a viral infection of the intestinal lining. Rotavirus gastroenteritis is the most common – as much as 95% of children will experience it at least once by the time they are 5 years old3. At other times, it may be caused by bacterial or parasitic infections. Food allergies or food poisoning (salmonella) may also cause diarrhea a few hours after ingesting the contaminated food.

Even excess intake of protein can cause diarrhea. If your child has just one or two loose stools, the cause is probably something unusual your child ate. Lack of proper handwashing before meals is another common cause. Lactose intolerance, in particular, is prevalent for children of East Asian descent4.

How dangerous is diarrhea to your child5?

Persistent, uncontrolled diarrhea may lead to dehydration, excessive loss of water and electrolytes – which can cause electrolyte imbalance, mess up the gut microbiota, and circulatory shock. This can lead to fluid imbalance and a compromised immune system, potentially developing into more serious health issues if not addressed quickly. 

How can you prevent your child from having diarrhea?

Always practice good hygiene habits, especially good handwashing techniques. Ensure proper sanitization of feeding equipment at all times. Be conscious of the correct concentration and quantity of supplementary nutrition you feed your child (e.g. formula milk), and that the amount fed suits the needs and age of your child.

The right nutrition can help increase your child's natural defence against most infections. Friso® Gold contains Frisoshield, which is a formula with essential nutrients such as Vitamins B6 and C, Selenium, GOS, Zinc and DHA to help your child grow stronger from the inside, for better resistance on the outside.

Your child might be sensitive to certain ingredients within dairy-based milk formulas, such as lactose from formulas made from cow’s milk. If those cause them to have an upset stomach, go for soy-based alternatives or check in with your pediatrician for other solutions..

How can you tell if your child has diarrhea?

Diarrhea can happen suddenly and should be dealt with as soon as possible, especially for young children. Toddlers or younger children might not be able to communicate their illness well, so it falls on you to look out for the symptoms. Your child might be suffering from diarrhea if they have:

  • 10 to 15 bowel movements a day
  • Liquid, watery or mucous stools
  • Stools that are unusual in color, or emit foul odor (note: mustard yellow is common for young breastfed children)
  • Gassiness that manifests as repeated flatulence
  • Painful cramps in the abdomen
  • Vomiting that lasts 1 to 3 days
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever, reddish lips, labored and deep breathing

How can you ease your child’s diarrhea symptoms?

While it can be worrying for any parent, children with mild diarrhea typically recover naturally in a few days. Rehydration is key, so ensure that your child is drinking enough water to replace the lost fluids. If your child is formula-fed, you can continue without diluting it, ensuring they continue with food that they normally have when feeding.

You can also consider replacing with foods high in dietary fiber, such as brown rice or even a small portion of a banana. Foods high in soluble fiber help absorb fluid and can relieve diarrhea symptoms. Wet poop can irritate your young child’s skin, so be sure to change diapers more frequently. Continue to manage and observe until they are pooping solid stools less than 3 times a day.

When should you bring your child to the doctor’s?

If the diarrhea symptoms are persistent or acute, it’s time to call your doctor. The following signs indicate a serious condition that requires timely medical attention:

  • Repeatedly passing loose stools
  • Blood in stools
  • Fever and exhaustion or lethargy, with sunken or dry eyes, especially crying with no tears
  • Poor urine output
  • Continuous vomiting
  • Inability or refusal to eat
  • Extreme thirst
  • Rectal paresis, where the rectum is prolapsed from overuse in chronic diarrhea

Depending on the condition, your healthcare provider might prescribe anti-diarrheal medication, antibiotics, or even refer you to a specialist for further therapy.


1,2. (Accessed on March, 2022)

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. Atkinson W, Hamborsky J, McIntyre L, et al, eds. 10th ed. Washington, DC: Public Health Foundation; 2007:295–306.



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