Diarrhea, Age 11 and Younger
Every baby or child has different bowel habits. Many newborns who are breast-fed have 5 to 10 bowel movements a day. They may have as few as 1 or 2. After 2 weeks, breast-fed babies' bowel movements might be less frequent. Bottle-fed babies tend to have 1 or 2 fewer bowel movements a day than breast-fed babies. Babies sometimes go 2 days or longer between bowel movements. This usually is not a problem as long as:
- The baby seems comfortable and is healthy and growing.
- The stools are not hard.
Normal stool during infancy may be runny or pasty, especially if the baby is breast-fed. The presence of mucus in the stool is not uncommon. Unless there is a change in your baby's normal habits, loose and frequent stools are not considered to be diarrhea.
Diarrhea occurs when there is an increase in the frequency of bowel movements or bowel movements are more watery and loose than normal. Diarrhea has many causes.
A child may develop diarrhea from a change in his or her diet. A baby's or child's digestive tract may not tolerate large amounts of juice, fruit, or even milk. Diarrhea may be caused by an increase in the amount of juice or fruit a child drinks or eats. Diarrhea that is caused by a change in the child's diet is not usually serious.
Diarrhea is often caused by a viral or bacterial infection, such as Reference rotavirus Opens New Window, stomach flu (Reference gastroenteritis Opens New Window), or Reference food poisoning Opens New Window. Diarrhea is the body's way of quickly clearing any viruses, bacteria, or toxins such as Reference botulism Opens New Window from the digestive tract. Most cases of diarrhea are caused by a viral infection and will usually clear up in a few days.
Diarrhea may also be caused by a parasitic infection, such as Reference Giardia lamblia Opens New Window. This parasite, as well as other viral and bacterial infections, may be spread by drinking Reference untreated water Opens New Window, unpasteurized dairy products, or by poor hand-washing.
On rare occasions, diarrhea can be a symptom of a more serious condition, such as:
- A problem in the digestive tract, such as Reference inflammatory bowel disease Opens New Window or Reference intussusception Opens New Window.
- Diseases that interfere with the normal digestion of food (malabsorption), such as Reference cystic fibrosis Opens New Window or Reference celiac disease Opens New Window.
Children, especially those younger than 6 months of age and those with other Reference health risks, need special attention when they have diarrhea because they can quickly become Reference dehydrated Opens New Window. Careful observation of your child's appearance and how much fluid he or she is drinking can help prevent problems.
Reference Check your child's symptoms to decide if and when your child should see a doctor.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference April 5, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Reference H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine