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Gastroenteritis

Diarrhea is the passing of loose, watery stools. Vomiting is throwing up food and fluids.

Your child may lose large amounts of fluids during diarrhea or vomiting. This is called dehydration. You need to make sure your child drinks enough liquids to prevent dehydration.

What you should do for vomiting

  • Give your child plenty of liquids such as:
    • water
    • an oral rehydration solution such as Pedialyte®
    • ginger ale
    • Popsicles®
  • Start by giving your child small amounts: 2 to 3 teaspoons every 10 to 15 minutes until she stops throwing up.
  • After that, slowly increase the amount of liquids by 1 to 2 ounces every 30 to 60 minutes as long as your child doesn’t throw up.
  • Don’t give your child:
    • soft drinks (pop)
    • fruit juices
    • fruit punches
    • sports drinks

What you should do for diarrhea

  • Your child should drink at least twice as much liquids as usual.
  • Give your child an oral rehydration solution such as Pedialyte®.
  • Don’t give your child Pedialyte® for more than 24 hours without calling her health care provider.
  • Give your child food when she feels like eating again as long as she is not vomiting.
    • Keep breastfeeding or formula feeding your infant or toddler. (Talk with your health care provider about using formula made to treat diarrhea before you use it.)
    • Good food choices for diarrhea are noodles, crackers, oatmeal, rice cereals, bread or toast, potatoes, bananas, applesauce, and turkey or chicken.
    • Avoid foods that are spicy, sugary or that have fructose (high-fructose corn syrup).
    • Offer your child yogurt with active cultures (such as Dannon®, Yoplait® or Activia®.)
    • Give your child probiotics such as lactobacillus or acidophilus. Two examples are Culturelle® and Lactinex®.

When to call your health care provider

Call your health care provider if your child:

  • is younger than 6 months old
  • is vomiting and can't keep any liquids down
  • has signs of dehydration:
    • has a dry mouth
    • has no tears when crying
    • has sunken eyes
    • has a lack of urine (or dry diaper for more than eight hours)
    • is unusually sleepy or fussy
  • has a bad stomachache without relief
  • vomit has blood in it, vomit is green or vomit that looks like coffee grounds
  • has blood in the stool
  • has diarrhea for more than two weeks
  • has been exposed to a source of bacterial diarrhea through travel or food

 

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition

To avoid awkward sentences, instead of referring to your child as "he/she" or "him/her," this guide will alternate between "he" or she" and "him" or "her."

First published: 02/01/2010
Last updated: 01/01/2014

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic