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What To Do When Toddler Has Diarrhea and Stomach Bug (Belly Hurts, Mom!)

toddler with diarrhea

Mom’s Question:
My 2 1/2 year old toddler has a stomach bug and so does everyone else. He has had diarrhea for 4 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)

Baby Helpline:

Toddler With Diarrhea – What To Do

For a 2-year-old, the recommendation is to pay a visit to the Dr 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 became 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 your baby 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 a severe diarrhea, i.e. more than 8 stools in 8 hours.
  • The child also vomits for more than 24 hours.
  • The child has a fever for more than 2 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 actually is 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 the diarrhea until all dairy products are excluded from their diet for a while. This happened to one of me toddlers once. But until you suspect that (together with a Dr), assume that he is simply not well yet.

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 the 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 litter) of water, boiled and cooled. Stir the solution until the salt and sugar are dissolved, and offer it to your child. Of course, you have to make sure 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 remedy for diarrhea. Probiotics can also be found in pills, powders and chewables, such as for example Garden of Life Probiotic for Kids. Probiotics is a well-studied, natural drug comprising of 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 3 days if babies received probiotics. (You can read the study on treating diarrhea in infants with probiotics here. (Opens in new window)

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

There are other alternatives in addition to Garden of Life, such as Florastor Kids and Culturelle for example. You can find and read about several brands of probiotics to children here at Amazon. (Opens in new window.)

Good luck, and give the doctor a call,

Paula
(Answer approved by our Medical Reference Team)

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