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Diarrhea, or loose stools, is a common symptom in children. It can be caused by everything from tummy bugs to parasites like giardia, as well as certain foods not agreeing with your little one. Diarrhea can also go along with non-intestinal ailments like ear infections and viruses. Even teething can cause diarrhea.

The good news is as long as your child seems well hydrated to you as defined by:

  • More than 4-5 wet diapers in 24hr for children under 1 year old
  • More than 3-4 wet diapers in 24hr for children 1-2 years old
  • More than 3 voids in 24hr for children older than 2 years old

You’re generally okay to watch and wait.


If your child is not meeting these criteria, has dry lips or mouth, or the diarrhea contains a small amount of blood, they should be seen same day by a medical provider.

If  your child has diarrhea that appears to be entirely blood or is severely dehydrated as defined by greater than 10% weight loss and is acting overly sleepy or not responding, they should be seen in an ER.

If your child has diarrhea that does not meet the above criteria, we recommend increasing fluid intake and administering a probiotic (e.g. Culturelle for kids or Florastor for kids).

The best fluid for oral rehydration is called Pedialyte and is available over the counter. Other options include popsicles, both Pedialyte and regular popsicles, as well as jell-o, which has a high water content. Apple juice, diluted half and half with water, can help with hydration as well.

Disclaimer: This symptom guid is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you think your child may have a life threatening emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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