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Treatments for Diarrhea

Expert Q&A

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Updated May 28, 2014

Mother breastfeeding baby in bed
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Q. I have an 11-month-old son who has diarrhea. His pediatrician recommended Pedialyte, but it has been on going for about a week now. Is there any other medication of some sort to give him? I also diluted half of his formula too. Shannon, Detroit, MI

A. Even with a simple stomach 'bug' or virus, like Rotavirus, it is not unusual for the diarrhea to linger for several weeks.

Medications for Diarrhea

In general, most experts recommend that parents not give their children anti-diarrhea medications when they have diarrhea. According to The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, 'medications to treat diarrhea in adults can be dangerous to children.' This includes medications like Imodium and Kaopectate.

On the other hand, acidophilus is supposed to be helpful, so you might feed your child yogurt several times a day or ask your Pediatrician about acidophilus supplements.

Dietary Treatments

In addition to yogurt, it is usually a good idea to keep your child on their regular diet when they have diarrhea that is caused by a simple stomach virus. It is usually recommended that you not start restricting a lot of foods from your child's diet.

And you can usually continue your child on full strength formula.

While some parents think that they should not feed their child, should offer a BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apple sauce, and toast), or otherwise limit their child's diet when they are sick, unless your child is vomiting a lot or simply doesn't want to eat, that usually isn't necessary.

Especially if your child just has diarrhea and/or occasional vomiting, you should:

  • continue to breastfeed
  • continue to formula feed your infant, using full strength formula, once they are rehydrated
  • get back to an age appropriate unrestricted diet as soon as possible
  • avoid restricting milk (lactose) in your older child or making changes to your infant's formula
  • avoid foods with a lot of added sugars, like juice and carbonated soft drinks
If you are only able to feed your child Pedialyte or half strength formula for more than about 12 hours, then you should talk to your Pediatrician.

Pedialyte

Although Pedialyte and other electrolyte solutions are usually recommended when children have diarrhea, it is important to realize that they don't actually make the diarrhea go away. Instead of being a treatment for diarrhea, they are actually given so that your child doesn't become dehydrated.

And while you might give very small amounts of Pedialyte, like a teaspoon every five minutes, when children are vomiting, with simple diarrhea, you can usually let your child drink as much Pedialyte as they like. So in addition to their regular diet, you can usually give a few ounces of Pedialyte after each large, watery stool. If your child has a lot of diarrhea or is showing any symptoms of dehydration, then you may have to give even more Pedialyte.

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