Affecting children between the age group of 1 to 5 years, especially boys, toddler’s diarrhea is the common cause of chronic or persistent diarrhea in young children. It is not serious and will disappear when the child grows older. One of the causes of toddler’s diarrhea is that the diet of children in this age group is not ideal. The diarrhea can stop if proper amount of fat is included in the diet like whole milk; the intake of fruit juice or squash is reduced; and normal quantity of fiber is included in the toddler's diet.
What Causes Toddler Diarrhea?
There are various reasons causing toddler diarrhea. Some of the causes are given below:
Viruses like Rotavirus, Adenovirus, Calicivirus, Astrovirus and Influenza virus can cause diarrhea and associated symptoms like vomiting, chills, fever, abdominal pain and aches.
Diarrhea caused due to bacteria can be very severe and is often accompanied by cramps, blood in stools and fever. Some of the bacteria are Salmonella, Staph, E.coli and Shigella. Some of these infections can go away naturally; otherwise, bring your toddler to see a doctor, and a stool culture might be required for checking out any signs of bacterial infection.
Viral or bacterial ear infection can also cause diarrhea. The child pulls on the ear frequently and could possibly have had a cold recently. It is accompanied by nausea, vomiting and pain in the ear.
Parasites in the bowel can cause diarrhea, like Giardiasis – a microscopic parasite. Along with diarrhea, there will be bloating, gas, nausea, cramps and greasy stools.
If the diarrhea occurs during or after an antibiotic course, it could be due to the medicine, which kills good bacteria in the gut as well as bacteria causing problems. Alternative medicine should be requested to the toddler's doctor, and continue current medication till doctor you asks to do stop giving.
High juice intake
Fruit juice containing high amount of sorbitol or fructose can cause loose stools. Once the intake is reduced, the diarrhea will go away in a week.
When the immune system reacts abnormally to food proteins, it can cause swelling in the lips and face and cause blockage of airways. It can cause diarrhea, hives, abdominal pain, etc.
Food intolerance is abnormal reaction to certain foods without the involvement of immune system, for example, Lactose intolerance, where lactase isn’t produced adequately in the body.
In case the baby has ingested some medicine or non-food item, he/she can have diarrhea, vomiting, breathing trouble or loss in consciousness. 911 should be contacted immediately.
Multiple stools in a day with foul smell and mucus is also referred to as toddler diarrhea. Addition of new foods or change in diet can cause toddler diarrhea and child will outgrow this condition in a few days.
What Are the Symptoms of Toddler Diarrhea?
Toddler diarrhea is when an otherwise healthy child, between the age group of 6 months to 5 years, has chronic diarrhea. The commonly seen symptoms are:
- 5 to 10 loose, watery and large stools in a day
- Undigested food in the stools
- Diarrhea for weeks, followed by weeks of normal stools
In case the following symptoms are exhibited, a pediatric GI specialist should be consulted:
- Presence of blood in stools
- Weight loss or poor gain in weight
- Chronic fever
- Severe abdominal pain
- Greasy and oily stools
- Stooling accidents
How to Deal with Toddler Diarrhea
Remove Irritating Foods
Some foods known for causing diarrhea should be eliminated from the diet till the diarrhea resolves. Some of these foods are:
- Milk products except yoghurt
- Cow’s milk: It is difficult for the intestine to digest cow’s milk after severe diarrhea. Soy milk should be used for formulas for at least 2 weeks.
- Juices containing high level of sorbitol should be avoided, for e.g. apple juice, pear juice and cherry juice. White grape juice can be given.
- It is not necessary to stop breast feeding during the course of diarrhea.
Determine How Severe the Diarrhea Is
It is important to determine if the diarrhea is causing dehydration in the baby. The baby can be weighed every day to determine any weight loss. If there is a weight loss of 5%, it indicates mild to moderate weight loss. Doctor should be consulted in case of any weight loss. Weight loss in one day is of more concern than if the same weight loss happens in one week. 10% weight loss is of serious concern.
Maintain a Diarrhea Record
When a record is maintained regarding the diarrhea symptoms and frequency, it becomes easy for the doctor to diagnose on the child’s condition. A sample chart could list the following:
- Number of times stools were passed
- Nature of stools
- Treatment administered
- Course of illness
Foods to Give the Toddler
The basic rule is to feed half the quantity, twice the number of times. Make your toddle sip the ice chips, Popsicles made from oral electrolyte solutions or white grape juice throughout the day if your child has a mild symptoms of diarrhea. Other foods which can be administered to the child for mild diarrhea are:
- Rice or rice cereal
- Apple sauce
- Unbuttered toast
- Breast milk or formula
For moderate and severe diarrhea the quantity and frequency will have to be modified. Doctor should be consulted.
This healthy bacteria live in our gut are also present in foods like yogurt. Probiotics are available with Lactobacillus in drug stores. When giving it to children, it can be mixed with other foods and given. It helps in reducing the duration and severity of diarrhea.
When to See a Doctor
In case you observe any of the following symptoms, the physician should be contacted immediately:
- Dehydration – no urination in 12 hours, dry mouth and no tears
- Appearance of blood in stools
- More than 8 stools in 8 hours
- Watery diarrhea and vomiting
- Child starts acting very sick
For the below symptoms, the doctor can be called during work hours:
- Appearance of blood, mucus or pus in the stools, or have black or tarry stools
- Fever for more than 3 days, fever over 102 degrees
- Mild diarrhea for over 2 weeks
- Any other concerns or questions you might have
- Diarrhea is very common and usually goes away on its own. If not, children are usually administered oral rehydration solutions.
- Diarrhea can cause dehydration which can be very serious in children, elderly and people with compromised immune system. Dehydration should be treated immediately with fluids and electrolyte solutions.
- Fluids, like plain water, soda, ginger ale, tea, fruit juice, chicken broth, sports drinks and gelatin desserts do not contain the right proportion of sugar and salt, causing the diarrhea to get worse.
- Plain water does not contain enough quantity of sodium, potassium and other minerals and nutrients hence should not be used for rehydration.