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First Aid: Diarrhea

First Aid

Most cases of diarrhea (runny or watery bowel movements) are caused by gastrointestinal (GI) infections. Diarrhea usually is not a sign of a serious illness, but it can cause kids to lose fluids, salts, and minerals. If your child has diarrhea, it’s important to make sure fluids and nutrients are replaced.

Signs and Symptoms

  • loose and frequent stools
  • cramping tummy pain
  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • feeling tired
  • weight loss
  • dehydration

What to Do

Depending on the amount of fluid loss and the severity of diarrhea, your doctor will probably instruct you to:

  • continue your child’s regular diet and give more liquids
  • offer additional breast milk or formula to infants
  • use an oral rehydration solution (ORS) to replace lost fluids

Do not offer plain water to infants — it doesn’t contain enough sodium and other minerals. Avoid apple juice and other sweet drinks because they may make diarrhea worse.

Seek Medical Care

If Your Child:

  • is younger than 6 months old
  • has severe or prolonged diarrhea
  • is younger than 12 months old and has a fever of 102ºF (38.8ºC) or higher
  • vomits repeatedly or refuses to drink fluids
  • is urinating less than usual
  • has severe abdominal (belly) pain
  • has diarrhea that contains blood or mucus

Think Prevention!

Make sure kids wash their hands well and often to avoid getting infected with germs that can cause diarrhea. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating, and refrigerate meats as soon as possible after buying them and cook them until they’re no longer pink.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2014