Diarrhea in Children: Common Causes and Treatments
Diarrhea is the body's way of ridding itself of germs, and most episodes last a few days to a week. Diarrhea often occurs with fever, nausea, vomiting, cramps, and dehydration. Some of the most common reasons kids get diarrhea include:
Infection from viruses like rotavirus, bacteria like salmonella and, rarely, parasites like giardia. Viruses are the most common cause of a child's diarrhea. Along with loose or watery stools, symptoms of a viral gastroenteritis infection often include vomiting, stomachache, headache, and fever.
When treating viral gastroenteritis -- which can last 5-14 days -- it's important to prevent fluid loss. Offer additional breast milk or an oral rehydration solution (ORS) to infants and young children. Water alone doesn't have enough sodium, potassium, and other nutrients to safely rehydrate very young children. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the amount of fluids your child needs, how to make sure he or she gets them, when to give them, and how to watch for dehydration.
Older children with diarrhea can drink anything they like to stay hydrated, including ORS and brand-name products (their names usually end in "lyte"). Popsicles can also be a good way to get fluids into a child who's been vomiting and needs to rehydrate slowly.