Diarrhea is when you pass loose or watery stool. For some, diarrhea is mild and will go away within a few days. For others, it may last longer. It can make you feel weak and dehydrated (dried out). It can also lead to unhealthy weight loss. A stomach illness can cause diarrhea. Some medical treatments, such as antibiotics and some cancer treatments, can also cause diarrhea.
These things may help you feel better if you have diarrhea:
Ask your doctor if you should take a multivitamin or drink sports drinks to boost your nutrition. Also ask about taking a fiber supplement, such as Metamucil, to add bulk to your stools.
Your doctor may also recommend a special medicine for diarrhea. Take this medicine as your doctor told you to take it.
You can bake or broil beef, pork, chicken, fish, or turkey. Cooked eggs are also okay. Use low-fat milk, cheese, or yogurt.
If you have very severe diarrhea, you may need to stop eating or drinking dairy products for a few days.
Eat bread products made from refined, white flour. Pasta, white rice, and cereals such as cream of wheat, farina, oatmeal, and cornflakes are okay. You may also try pancakes and waffles made with white flour, and cornbread, but don’t add to much honey or syrup.
Vegetables you may eat include carrots, green beans, mushrooms, beets, asparagus tips, acorn squash, and peeled zucchini. You should cook them first. Baked potatoes are okay. In general, removing seeds and skins is best.
Some desserts and snacks to try are Jell-O, popsicles, cakes, cookies, and sherbet.
You should avoid some specific kinds of foods when you have diarrhea:
Children who have diarrhea may have less energy, dry eyes, or a dry, sticky mouth. They may also not be urinating or wetting their diaper as often as usual.
Give your child fluids for the first 4 to 6 hours. At first, try 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of fluid every 30 to 60 minutes.
If you are breastfeeding your infant, continue to do so. If you are using formula, you may try using it at half strength for 2 to 3 feedings after diarrhea starts. Regular formula feedings can begin after this.
If your child throws up, decrease the amount of fluids you give them. You can start with as little as 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of fluid every 10 to 15 minutes.
When your child is ready for regular foods, try bananas, crackers, chicken, pasta, and rice cereal. Avoid dairy, apple juice, full-strength fruit juice, and fried foods.
Call your child’s doctor if your child has any of these symptoms:
Call your doctor if you have:
Diarrhea - self-care
Bhutta ZZ. Acute gastroenteritis in children. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 332.
Schiller LR, Sellin JH. Diarrhea. Diarrhea. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran’s Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 15.
Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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