What is Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is stool that is loose and watery. Usually there is an increased amount of stool and more frequent trips to the bathroom during episodes of diarrhea. It occurs when food and fluids pass too quickly or in large quantities through the colon. When this happens, food and fluids are not absorbed properly resulting in watery stool. Diarrhea is a common condition and most cases resolve on their own. However, persistent diarrhea can lead to loss of water and salts that the body needs to function.

What are the causes?

  • Infection by bacteria (i.e. contaminated food or water)
  • Viruses (Rotavirus is the most common cause of acute childhood diarrhea)
  • Eating foods that upset the digestive system (stomach and intestines)
  • Allergies to foods (i.e. lactose intolerance)
  • Medications (most commonly antibiotics)
  • Radiation therapy
  • Diseases of the intestines
  • Malabsorption (where the body is unable to adequately absorb certain nutrients from the diet)
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Digestive tract surgery
  • Diabetes

Treatments for Diarrhea:

  • Fluid replacement – the water and salts lost during diarrhea need to be replaced
  • Adjusting medications – if your child’s doctor determines diarrhea is caused by medications then your child’s doctor may advise you to stop those medications and begin a new treatment plan
  • Treat underlying conditions such as intestinal diseases

What can I do?

  • Give your child plenty of clear liquids (broth, water and juices)
  • Avoid feeding your child dairy products, fatty foods, high fiber foods or highly seasoned foods
  • Make sure your child does not become dehydrated. Call your doctor if your child’s diarrhea does not improve within 24 hours. Call your doctor if your baby:
  • Has not wet his or her diaper in more than three hours
  • Has a fever of more than 102 °F
  • Has bloody or black stools
  • Has a dry mouth or cries without tears
  • Is unusually drowsy, unresponsive, sleepy or irritable
  • Has a sunken appearance in eyes, abdomen or cheeks
  • Has skin that won’t flatten if pinched and released


It is important to remember the health information found on this Web site is for reference only not intended to replace the advice and guidance of your health care provider. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a true medical emergency, call 911 immediately.


  • Frequent loose, watery stools
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Bloating
  • Blood in the stool


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