My toddler has diarrhea a lot. What could the problem be?
There are many causes of diarrhea, but three different issues tend to be to blame most often. The first is viral gastroenteritis, often called stomach flu, which is caused by viruses that go around all year, especially in the summer and winter months. You’ll know it’s gastroenteritis because it often starts with a fever and vomiting, and is followed by diarrhea. Stomach viruses are especially common in daycares and spread easily between kids. Unfortunately, diarrhea from a stomach flu can linger for weeks, and there is nothing you can do about it. The diarrhea-relief medication loperamide (Imodium) is not recommended for kids under 12. The best treatment is to give kids fluids and lots of rest.
Another cause goes by the name “toddler diarrhea,” which occurs when a child has too much juice in their diet. Many juices have sorbitol, a non-digestible sugar, added to them. Sorbitol can pull water from the bloodstream into the intestine, resulting in watery stool. I don’t recommend giving kids any juice at all—choose water instead. The Canadian Paediatric Society suggests limiting juice to 120 millilitres (four ounces) a day, and offering whole fruits and vegetables in its place.
The last possibility is your child might have mushy, liquidy poop as their baseline. Many kids have this, often because of a high-fibre diet, which is a good thing. What differentiates true diarrhea and normal stool is the consistency (diarrhea being a change to more liquidy poop) and frequency (diarrhea is more frequent). So if your child regularly poops two times a day and starts going 10 times a day, that is a sign that something is amiss.
No matter the cause, when your child has diarrhea, you want to ensure they are drinking enough—even little sips every few minutes will maintain hydration. If your child experiences bloody diarrhea, weight loss, dehydration or lethargy, or if the diarrhea lasts more than a week, take them to see their paediatrician.