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Quick reference medical handouts used by Pediatric offices

When a 10-month old has diarrhea, is it necessary to withhold all food and only feed pedialyte for up to a week. Won't that cause more diarrhea?

It is not only unnecessary to place your child on pedialyte for a week but could be dangerous!

Diet management is the cornerstone of diarrhea management. Pediatric experts once thought that the best treatment for childhood diarrhea was to avoid oral intake, which would further stimulate the intestines. They recommended resting the stomach, avoiding milk, switching to soy-based formula, and advancing to the BRAT diet (banana, rice, applesauce, and toast).

This, however, may not be the best method to combat this common problem, and the recommended treatment has changed. Instead, the youngster should be given a liquid designed expressly for replacing lost fluid, such as Pedialyte®, Rehydralyte® or Ricelyte®. These oral rehydration solutions are available without a prescription at most pharmacies and supermarkets. They provide the youngster with the water, sugar and electrolytes lost in diarrheal fluid.

The correct way to give these fluids is to offer small, frequent amounts. An ounce or two every half hour is preferable to larger amounts given less often. The rehydration solutions should be ideally used for only six to eight hours. If the diarrhea is severe, the rehydration solutions should be continued for 24 hours (but no longer). Children with diarrhea need at least twice as much fluid as they usually drink.

Infants should be placed back on their formula or breast feedings by 24 hours at the latest (often by six hours) even if the diarrhea persists. Half-strength formula should be avoided. Rice cereal, strained bananas, mashed potatoes, etc. can be given to infants over four months old.

For older youngsters, starchy foods are best. Give cereals (especially rice), bread, noodles, unbuttered rice, pasta without sauce, mashed potatoes, carrots, applesauce, and fresh bananas. Pretzels or salty crackers can help meet the child's sodium needs.

Liquids like apple juice, grape juice, orange juice, Kool-Aid, soft drinks like cola or ginger ale, and sports drinks have too much sugar, and can make the child's diarrhea worse. Foods to avoid include ice cream, jello, sherbet, canned fruit, fried or fatty foods, and skim milk. Furthermore, plain water alone does not replace the lost minerals needed to prevent dehydration.

If your child is over 1 year old:

  • Give rice cereal, oatmeal, bread, noodles, mashed potatoes, carrots, applesauce, and strained bananas.
  • Pretzels or salty crackers can also help.
  • Give water or diluted Kool-Aid as the main fluids.
  • If your child does not want to eat solid food, give your child milk or formula rather than water.

Taking Care of Mild Diarrhea

  • Feed your child like always. (You can keep giving formula to your baby.)
  • Stay away from all fruit juices.

Call your child's doctor right away if:

  • Your child has not urinated in 8 hours or has a very dry mouth or no tears.
  • There is any blood in the diarrhea.
  • Your child has had more than 8 BMs in the last 8 hours.
  • The diarrhea is watery AND your child also throws up clear fluids three or more times.
  • Your child starts acting very sick.
  • The skin inside your child's mouth is dry without moisutre

Also check with your child's doctor for the best advice on treating this common problem.

See also: Diarrhea, Common Illness, Tragic Consequences


As a reminder, this information should not be relied on as medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice of your child’s pediatrician. Please read our full disclaimer.

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