How to Stop Diarrhea in an Infant or Toddler

How to stop diarrhea is a common question asked by parents of infants and toddlers with diarrhea.

There are 2 things I do to stop diarrhea:

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Treat the underlying cause.

  • If your child has gastroenteritis, the treatment is supportive while the body clears the infection itself. Supportive treatment means making sure your child drinks enough so she doesn't get dehydrated - read more.
  • If your child has a chronic infestation, like giardiasis, the treatment will be metronidazole, which attacks that organism. Your doctor may have found this after sending a stool (poop, poo) specimen to the lab
  • If your child has malabsorption, that will be treated specifically. For example, in celiac disease, gluten will be removed from the diet. To read more on celiac disease, click here
  • If your child has toddler's diarrhea which is benign, the treatment is supportive and expectant - in other words, wait until she is older and in the meantime, make sure she isn't dehydrated - read more.

So in most cases, the most important thing is attention to fluids and making sure your child isn't dehydrated. When the diarrhea is chronic, treatment of the underlying cause will generally sort out the diarrhea.

I do not routinely use Loperamide (Imodium) to stop diarrhea in children - it can be dangerous. So when the question how to stop diarrhea is asked, the only medication I advise is Probiotics.

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Probiotics

Probiotics (like Lactobacillus or Acidophilus) have been shown to reduce the frequency of toddler and infant diarrhea and so I always remind my sisters to give their children Lactobacillus when they ask how to stop diarrhea in their children.

Probiotics normalize the natural bugs in the gut, which are often upset when there is diarrhea.

Probiotics may be given in capsule form - open the capsule and sprinkle the contents on your child's soft food (like yoghurt or ice cream) or sprinkle in a drink and get your child to suck them up through a straw.

Probiotics also occur in natural yoghurts so you can give them that way if your child likes yoghurt - check the label to see if Lactobacillus or Acidophilus is on the label.

Probiotics are the only treatment I suggest for infant or toddler diarrhea other than treating the cause.

You can buy probiotics in pharmacies and health food stores. Look out for names like Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus bifidus and other similar names. You can buy natural yoghurts containing probiotics at many stores.

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References

  • Huang JS, Bousvaros A, Lee JW, Diaz A, Davidson EJ. Efficacy of probiotic use in acute diarrhea in children: a meta-analysis. Dig Dis Sci. 2002 Nov;47(11):2625-34.
  • Cornelius W. Van Niel, Chris Feudtner, Michelle M. Garrison, and Dimitri A. Christakis. Lactobacillus Therapy for Acute Infectious Diarrhea in Children: A Meta-analysis. PEDIATRICS Vol. 109 No. 4 April 2002, pp. 678-684

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Last reviewed on 26 May 2011.

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Dr Maud MD

Dr Maud MD (MBChB, FRACP, FRCPCH), a specialist pediatrician, provides health information and medical advice for parents of babies and toddlers. Read more about Dr Maud.



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