Toddler's Diarrhea

A Pediatrician Explains the Common Causes and Treatments

Little girl being massaged
Matthias Tunger/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Q. My son who is nearly two-and-a-half years old has had runny, loose stools now for quite some time. I can't remember when he last had a formed motion. I am told that, by this age, he should definitely be having formed motions. His stools are sometimes explosive (and not very pleasant). I am in the process of toilet training him (even though he refuses to sit on the toilet). Can you please advise as to what may be causing this? He has a varied diet. Sandra; Queensland, Australia

A. 

Possible Causes of Diarrhea in Young Children

There are many possible causes of diarrhea in toddlers. Here are some common ones. 

  • milk allergylactose intolerance, or another underlying health condition may be causing malabsorption.
  • An Infection, such as giardiasis, could be the trigger.
  • "Toddler's diarrhea" (also known as drinking too much fruit juice) is another possible cause. Toddler's diarrhea usually begins between the ages of six months and 30 months and goes away by the time the child is about four years old. A kid may have two to six watery stools each day, but otherwise may seem well and gains weight normally.

How to Treat Diarrhea in Young Kids

Try to keep a record for a week or so to see when, exactly, the diarrhea occurs—the date, the time of day, the date and time of your child's last meal, and what the last meal consisted of. It may sound like a lot of work, but you may see a pattern develop, which can provide clues to a possible cause.

For example, if you notice that your kid tends to have symptoms primarily after eating milk or dairy, then you may want to ask his pediatrician if it's alright to eliminate those types of foods from his diet. 

If you think that your child may have toddler's diarrhea, there are some key things that you can do.

  • Limit fruit juice or stop giving it to your child altogether, especially juices that are high in fructose or sorbital, like apple juice and pear juice. White grape juice is a better option. Remember that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting fruit juice to just four to six ounces per day for children who are between the ages of one and six. Even that small amount may be too much for some children, though, so eliminating juice completely might be helpful for children with toddler's diarrhea.
  • Increase the amount of fat in his diet (talk to your pediatrician about this, though, so you don't end up giving your child too many high-fat foods, which isn't healthy).
  • Increase the amount of fiber in his diet. (Note: This recommendation can be confusing, since a high-fiber diet is supposed to help kids who are constipated, but fiber seems to help many different kinds of gastrointestinal disorders.)

Another general dietary strategy is to try adding foods to his diet that are known to cause constipation (the opposite of diarrhea).

 For example, children who consume a lot of whole cow's milk and other dairy products, and those who eat bananas or cooked carrots often become constipated. So if you increase the amounts of those foods in the diet of a child who has diarrhea, it might help his stools become more firm. 

When Should You See a Pediatrician

If you've tried all the methods above and they're not working, if your child has any other unusual symptoms (such as a fever), or if the diarrhea has been going on for some time, then you should see your child's pediatrician, who can do stool cultures to check for parasites and bacterial infections. If the cause is a bacterial infection, for instance, the doctor might be able to prescribe an antibiotic drug that can help get rid of the infection (and the diarrhea). 

If your child is very fussy, has greasy stools that are very foul-smelling, or if he is not gaining weight well, then your pediatrician might be more aggressive in looking for a medical cause for your child's loose stools.

It is important to work on solving this problem, not only so your child feels better (explosive bowel movements are no fun), but also since loose stools are bound to make it much more difficult to get him potty trained.

Source:

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/107/5/1210

Continue Reading