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Chronic Diarrhea in Children


Chronic diarrhea

lasts more than 4 weeks. Your child may have 3 or more episodes of diarrhea each day.

Signs and symptoms that may happen with chronic diarrhea:

  • Abdominal tenderness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Urgent need to have a bowel movement, or loss of bowel control
  • Weight loss
  • Anal irritation and inflammation

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child has severe abdominal pain.
  • Your child has blood or mucus in his or her bowel movements.
  • Your child's eyes look sunken in, or the soft spot on your infant's head looks sunken in.
  • Your child urinates less than usual, or his urine is dark yellow.
  • Your child has no wet diapers for 6 to 8 hours.
  • Your child has dry, cool skin.
  • Your child has repeated vomiting and cannot drink any liquids.
  • Your child cries without tears.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a fever of 102°F (38.8°C) or higher.
  • Your child has worsening abdominal pain.
  • Your child is more irritable, fussy, or tired than usual.
  • Your child has a dry mouth and lips.
  • Your child is losing weight.
  • Your child's symptoms do not get better with treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Treatment for your child's chronic diarrhea

will depend on the condition causing your child's chronic diarrhea. Medicines may be given to treat an infection or stop the diarrhea. Medicines that are causing diarrhea may be stopped or changed. Your child may need to change his or her diet and avoid certain foods.

Care for your child:

  • Give your child plenty of liquids. This will help prevent dehydration. Ask how much liquid your child should drink each day and which liquids are best for him or her. Give your baby extra breast milk or formula to prevent dehydration. You may need to change your baby's formula if it causes diarrhea. Ask your baby's healthcare provider which formula is best for him or her.
  • Give your child an oral rehydration solution (ORS) as directed. An ORS has the right amounts of water, salts, and sugar that your child needs to replace lost body fluids. You can buy an ORS at most grocery stores and pharmacies. Ask what kind of ORS your child needs and how much he or she should drink.
  • Do not give your child foods that make his or her symptoms worse. These include milk and dairy products, greasy and fatty foods, spicy foods, and caffeine. Keep a food diary to see if your child's symptoms are caused by certain foods. Bring this to your child's follow-up visits.
  • Give your child foods that are easy to digest. These include bananas, boiled potatoes, cooked carrots, cooked chicken, plain rice, and toast. You can also give your child yogurt and applesauce.
  • Tell your child to wash his or her hands often. Germs can get on your child's hands and into his or her mouth. This can lead to infections that cause diarrhea. Tell your child to use soap and water. Your child can use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available. Your child should wash his or her hands after he or she uses the bathroom or sneezes. Your child should also wash his or her hands before he or she eats or prepares food.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.