Diarrhea, Vomiting, and Water Loss (Dehydration)
Diarrhea (loose poop) and
vomiting, or “throwing up,” are why many parents call the doctor.
Your child’s doctor may call this gastroenteritis (GAS-
troh-en-tur-EYE-tis). These symptoms are often caused by a
Your child may first have a fever and some vomiting.
Diarrhea often starts later. The symptoms usually go away in a day or two. But
they can last a week before getting better.
One danger with diarrhea and vomiting is that your
child’s body can get dried out or dehydrated (dee-hye-DRAY-dud). This
happens when the body loses too much water.
Call the Doctor If…
…your child has diarrhea, vomiting, and is
younger than 6 months or your child has:
A fever over 102°F or
Blood in the stool (poop) or vomit.
Vomiting for more than 12 hours or diarrhea
for more than 2 days.
Also Call the Doctor If…
. ..your child has any of these signs of being too
Pees very little (wets fewer than 6 diapers
Has no tears when crying
Can’t or won’t drink anything
or feels very thirsty
Has a dry, sticky mouth, or dry lips
Looks like he or she has lost weight
Has sunken eyes or sunken soft spot on head
Acts very tired or strange
Most of the time you can treat this by getting your
child to drink something and eat simple foods.
(See the list below.)
But your child may need a special fluid that you can
buy in a store. It’s called an electrolyte drink
can’t drink this, then he or she may need to go to the hospital.
Call your child’s doctor if vomiting or
diarrhea won’t go away. The doctor may want to check your child.
What Can You Give Your Child When He or She Has Diarrhea?
For children 1 year old or older, these simple foods and drinks are
Wheat bread or pasta
Boiled or baked potatoes
Cereal, like oatmeal
Lean meat like chicken
Fruits and vegetables (cooked)
Bananas and applesauce
Yogurt or milk
Breast milk or infant formula
Special electrolyte drinks
For all ages, don’t give these foods or drinks:
Fatty foods like French fries, chips,
ice cream, cheese, or fried meats
Sugary foods like candy, cookies, or
Sugary drinks like juices or soda pop or
very salty broths or soups when diarrhea is bad
For children younger than 1 year check with your child’s
What to Do for Vomiting
Give small sips of clear fluids every 10 to
If your child keeps vomiting but is NOT dry,
wait 1 to 2 hours before trying again. Stop if your child starts to
throw up again, and call the doctor.
If your child is keeping down fluids and
wants to eat, try giving small amounts of simple foods. See the chart on
simple foods on the first page of this handout.
Remember, if you are worried or don’t know
what to do, call your child’s doctor.
What to Do for Diarrhea
Most diarrhea lasts 3 to 6 days or even longer.
Don’t worry as long as your child acts well and is eating and drinking
and peeing like usual.
Most children should keep eating normal foods
when they have mild diarrhea.
The doctor may suggest changing what your child
eats for a few days. This might mean stopping cow’s milk, but
breastfeeding your baby is fine.
Children with moderate diarrhea can be cared for
They need special fluids, like
electrolyte drinks. Talk with the doctor about how much and how long
to give these and which to buy.
Some children can’t handle
cow’s milk when they have diarrhea. They may need to stop
drinking it for a few days. Breastfeeding is fine for babies.
As your child gets better, he or she can
go back to normal foods.
Severe (Very Bad) Illness
See the “Call the Doctor If” list.
Call the doctor right away if your child shows any of those warning signs.
You may need to take your child to the emergency room for treatment.
Answers to Common Questions
Q. What should you do when your child is vomiting?
A. Try to give small sips of clear
fluids every 10 to 15 minutes. If vomiting continues, call your
Q. Should you keep a child with diarrhea from drinking or eating?
A. A child with diarrhea can
usually drink and eat most foods. If there is enough diarrhea to make your
child very thirsty, he or she needs a special fluid called an electrolyte
Soda pop, soups, and juices are OK for a child
with mild diarrhea. But don’t give these to a child with bad
diarrhea. They have the wrong amounts of sugar and salt and can make your
child sicker. Boiled skim milk is dangerous for all children. Sports drinks
may be used for school-aged children.
As soon as the dryness (dehydration) clears up,
let children eat simple foods. See the list of foods on the first page of
this handout. They can have as much as they want.
Q. What about diarrhea medicines?
A. These do
help in most cases. They can sometimes be harmful. Never use them unless
your child’s doctor tells you to.
Remember These Dos and Dont’s
Do watch for signs of
Do call the doctor if your child has
a high fever, has blood in his or her stool (poop), or starts
acting different than normal.
Do keep feeding your child if he or
she is not throwing up.
Do give your child special
electrolyte drinks if your child is thirsty.
Don’t try to make your own
Don’t give your child boiled
“anti-diarrhea” medicines unless told to by the