Thursday, September 06, 2012

What to do when a toddler has diarrhea

It all started on a Saturday afternoon. Becky started passing soft stools. That was the first sign something was not quite right. By mid-evening, she had passed motion eight times. Alarm bells more than just rang. they screamed. By the next morning, she had passed nothing eleven times. I brought her to the family doctor that I had seen for so many years, first because his clinic was open on a Sunday morning and secondly, my hubby's company medical insurance could be used there. Becky was so keen on seeing the doc you'd think she was feigning illness. But of course, she was not. During the whole check up, she was really still and attentive and obediently followed instructions. The doc assured me that it was not serious, and gave some medicine for Becky's diarrhea, abdominal pains and stomach gas. I had to monitor her the next few days to see her progress.

Her stools continued to be soft, but she needed to pass motion fewer times, which was a positive sign. She was still eating, though understandbly less. I also made her drink lots of water. On Monday night, Becky came down with a fever, and it shot to 39 degrees.

You can imagine my fright. I quickly gave her fever medicine and stuck a cooling gel pad on her forehead. Fortunately, her fever went down and stayed below 37.5 degrees, before returning to normal.

After almost three days of diarrhea, Becky is noticeably more tired and has no appetite. She only ate a bit of porridge, some luncheon meat, a sausage bun and some milk yesterday. I know she's not supposed to have milk, but she HAS to have her milk, so I ended up diluting it.

She didn't have any fever last night. Phew! But she's still having runny stools. So I and the whole family will continue to be on high alert.

Throughout her ordeal, Becky has been really brave, stoically bearing the pan and the discomfort. After the first day, she learnt to give us warnings and tell us she needed to pass motion. So we always managed to rush her to the potty in time. Other than the more occasional tantrums, the extreme stickiness and the more emotional mood swings, Becky has been quite bubbly. Still my curious, ah-siao little Becky.

So what have I learnt about handling a toddler with diarrhea? Here's my tip sheet.

1. Be prepared to change diapers extremely often, up to once an hour, on the first, even second day.

2. Be constantly vigilant, and be on the lookout for any facial or behavourial changes that tell you your toddler might need the potty.

3. Have nimble hands and legs. Once you know your toddler has to pass motion, you need to rush to the toilet, remove the bottoms, double time.

4. Be extremely patient. Toddlers will be very emotional and cranky, and they might only want to stick to you and only you during this time.

5. Have lots of toys and activities to divert the toddler's attention away from the pain and discomfort.

6. Assure, assure and reassure your toddler that it is alright, that it's ok to have abdominal pains, that it's ok to have diarrhea, that it will get better. Especially if it is the first time, they will feel frightened, so the reassurance will help to set their little minds at ease.

7. Your toddler will have less appetite, or even refuse to eat. So let him or her eat anything he or she wants to, even if it is unhealthy. The important thing is your toddler is eating and getting some food into the tummy. Whatever restrictions can come again once he or she gets well.

8. Have 'yu yi' oil handy. This is the brown coloured Chinese medicinal oil that helps to dispel gas. Rub the oil between your palms to warm it, then apply. Becky loves this as it soothes her tummy.

9. Constantly monitor for fever.

10. Let your toddler drink lots of water, as lots is being lost.

11. Try the BRAT diet. Feed your toddler banana, rice, apple and toast. These foods help to reduce diarrhea as they are relatively bland and low in fibre. Low fibre foods are recommended as those high in fibre can cause gas and possibly worsen gastrointestinal upset.

12. Be prepared to lose sleep for up to a week.

There. My tip sheet for handling a toddler with diarrhea. If you have any other advice to add on, let me know. It is always good to know what else we can do for the young ones when they are unwell.

Now let me now go tuck Becky in and make sure my little darling is comfortable.


  1. If the diarrhea has led to dehydration what should be the first treatment to be done?

    1. Hi hi, thanks for popping by. I think it's best to visit the doctor. Dehydration is never good. Hope all is well.


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