Find guidelines and tips on what to do when a baby or toddler has diarrhea. Learn how to help your child and when to call the doctor.

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Mom’s Question:
My 2 1/2-year-old toddler has diarrhea and a stomach bug, as does everyone else. He has had diarrhea for four days now, I mean bad, and he still keeps saying my belly hurts.

What could this be, and should I take him to the hospital?

Kim (Florida)


When Toddler has Diarrhea & Stomach Pain

For a 2-year-old, the recommendation is to visit the doctor if diarrhea persists for more than 24 hours or if the child shows signs of dehydration or other illness.

However, since your whole family seems to have the same bug, and if the rest of you got better after a few days, most likely, so will your son.

If your son does not get better soon after all the other family members recover, it is best to pay a visit to your child’s doctor because the infection might be too strong for his body to fight and would require additional treatment.

When a baby or toddler has diarrhea, call or visit a doctor immediately if:

  • The child appears dehydrated. (Learn about signs of dehydration here.)
  • You find blood, mucus, or puss in the baby’s stools.
  • The child is very sick.
  • The child has severe diarrhea, i.e., more than eight stools in 8 hours.
  • The child also vomits for more than 24 hours.
  • The child has had a fever for more than two days.
  • The baby is younger than three months and has diarrhea.

Toddlers are, of course, more sensitive than adults. And diarrhea can continue for quite a while after the child is actually well again, in my experience.

They can even become lactose intolerant for a couple of weeks after a stomach bug and not get rid of diarrhea until all dairy products are excluded from their diet for a while. This happened to one of my toddlers once. But until you suspect that (together with a Dr), assume that he is simply not well yet.

Signs of Dehydration & How to Mitigate it

You should check for signs of dehydration, such as a dry or sticky mouth, sunken eyes, lack of tears when crying, and small amounts of dark urine produced.

Be sure to offer him lots of fluids, but do not use plain water, soda, or tea, as they do not have the right amount of electrolytes and may, in fact, worsen diarrhea. You can either buy an over-the-counter rehydrating solution, such as Pedialyte, or another product with the “lyte” ending or prepare one at home.

To make a rehydrating solution, take 6 (six) teaspoons of sugar, ½ (half) teaspoon of salt, and 4 cups (one liter) of water, boiled and cooled. Stir the solution until the salt and sugar dissolve, and offer it to your child. Of course, you have to ensure your hands are clean when preparing the solution, and the child’s hands are clean when he is drinking it so that you do not pass the bacteria causing his diarrhea back into his body.

Giving your child any other anti-diarrhea medications available over the counter is not a good idea, as these medications are usually aimed at terminating the diarrhea symptoms only and have no effects on the cause of the illness.

If he can eat, try yogurt with lactobacillus, i.e., live cultures or so-called probiotics, which have been shown to be an effective natural remedy for diarrhea.

Probiotics can also be found in pills, powders, and chewables. Probiotics is a well-studied, natural drug comprising benign bacteria that help create balance in a person’s digestive system. This mitigates diarrhea and also promotes the person’s immune system. A research study already back in 2001 showed significantly reduced occasions of diarrhea lasting more than three days if babies received probiotics. (You can read the study on treating diarrhea in infants with probiotics here. (Opens in new window)

So probiotics for a baby with diarrhea is actually a great choice.

Good luck, and give the doctor a call,

(Answer approved by our Medical Reference Team)

More Babies With Tummy Pain And Diarrhea

If your toddler has diarrhea or a stomach bug too, add your comments below.

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