Diarrhea means the passage of an increased number of loose, watery stools. Most diarrhea in childhood (or adulthood, for that matter) is a gastroenteritis caused by viral infections. No amount of antibiotics will help - in fact, inappropriate antibiotics usually make things worse.

Diarrhea is the body's way of getting rid of noxious things in the GI tract. Thus just letting it run its course without interfering with medications to stop the diarrhea is good medicine. That's why your doctor may be reluctant to prescribe anti-diarrheal medications.

Diet management is the cornerstone of well, diarrhea management. Doctors used to recommend much more restrictive diets for children with diarrhea until it was noticed that in countries where the doctors recommended early feeding of milk and solids the kids got better faster. Oops. So now we tell you to resume solids and milk pretty soon - as soon as the child can tolerate them.

If there is vomiting at first, start your therapy with frequent sips - and I do mean frequent (every few minutes) and I do mean sips (a teaspoon or so at a time) - of rehydrating solution: Pedialyte®, Infalyte®, Ricelyte® or some generic fluid - they all work well. Watch for dehydration. Avoid using Gatorade® or similar sweat-replacement fluids for diarrhea - your child has diarrhea, not excessive sweat. The needs are completely different, and you could worsen your child's condition. Restart solids and milk when the vomiting phase is over.

In general, if your child seems to be doing OK, he or she probably is. This means that the playful child with diarrhea is OK. Expect it to last from a couple of days to a week or more. Contact your doctor right away if there is blood in the stool, fever 102F or more, or severe abdominal cramps. If diarrhea lasts longer than ten days or so, especially if there is anything odd about it, like a fishy smell (giardia) makes me prone to get some stool lab tests to check for something treatable.

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