Treating Toddler Diarrhea

Typical treatment for toddler diarrhea, and common causes and the side-effects of diarrhea in a child.

Diarrhea is by far one of the least pleasant conditions to deal with anytime, but this is especially true with small children. There are many causes of diarrhea in children. Among the most common causes are new foods introduced into the diet too early, food allergies or intolerance, and viruses or infections.

The biggest difficulty in dealing with toddler diarrhea is the fact that there is no medication available to treat it. Over-the-counter remedies are not recommended for small children as they are too powerful and can lead to immediate dehydration of a child's delicate system.

Dehydration is the most serious side-effect of diarrhea in toddlers. To prevent dehydration, encourage the child to drink lots of clear fluids such as water or broth. Commercially-prepared electrolyte formulas, such as Pedialyte, may be used but avoid sugary drinks such as colas, punch, or fruit juices.

If the condition lasts more than two or three days, you should take the child to see a doctor. This is a good precautionary measure to take in order to prevent dehydration as well as to diagnose the cause of the diarrhea. Often doctors will order lab work using a fecal sample in order to eliminate the possibility of bacterial infections. The doctor may also suggest a restricted diet to determine if any food allergies exist which might be contributing to the diarrhea.

The most commonly prescribed diet for toddler diarrhea is the BRAT diet. The BRAT diet consists of: Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and plain, white Toast. These four items rarely trigger allergic reactions in children, they are easily digested, and they work together to add bulk and thicken the stool back to a normal consistency. Your child does not have to eat all four items at every meal, but should consume fairly equal proportions of these items over the course of each day. Rice may be consumed in the form of rice milk and rice cereal in addition to actual grain rice. If your toddler doesn't have many teeth yet, the toast can be broken into small pieces and mixed together with another ingredient. Applesauce or rice cereal works especially well for this combination.

As the diarrhea clears up, your doctor will probably recommend that you re-introduce foods back into your child's diet slowly and watch for signs of food allergies with the re-introduction of each food.

One last consideration in treating diarrhea is the possibility of diaper rash. This condition in more prevalent with children who are still in diapers, but can occur in older children as well. The use of an ointment developed especially for diaper rash, such as A&D ointment, will help protect your child's skin from the acidic content of the diarrhea. Older children who are out of diapers can be reverted to Pull-Ups or similar training pants just for the duration of the diarrhea. This will help contain accidental leaks and make clean-up easier and more sanitary.

Lastly, it is important for you, the parent or caregiver, to remain calm and patient. Although a child's diarrhea is often inconvenient and unpleasant for you, it is more uncomfortable and unpleasant for your toddler. They often don't understand what's happening to their body and need your reassurance that they will be okay.

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