Loose Motion in Toddlers: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Loose Motions (Diarrhoea) in Toddlers

To have your child eat and digest their food is a strong sign of them growing healthily. At times though, babies cannot digest their food properly and suffer from loose motions, which could stay for a couple of days or continue for multiple days. When the child has loose motions for multiple days, the condition is called toddler diarrhoea. Let’s take a look at what the condition is, what causes it, and how it can be treated and prevented.

What Is Toddler Diarrhoea?

On a general note, when the bowel movement is frequent, loose and watery, it is termed as diarrhoea. This happens mostly when there is a stomach infection. Usually, bowel movement becomes normal within a few days, even in the case of toddlers. But, in case it doesn’t, it is termed as toddler diarrhoea. Kids suffering from toddler diarrhoea might have as less as two, and as many as ten bowel movements with watery stools throughout the day. These liquid stools might contain small amounts of improperly digested food too. Toddler diarrhoea can last for more than a week and lead to intense dehydration in toddlers.

How Common Is It in Toddlers?

This kind of diarrhoea is different than the usual diarrhoea, which happens due to a stomach infection. Most kids experience the usual diarrhoea a bunch of times before they grow old enough to go to school. The causes of diarrhoea in toddlers are discussed in detail below.

Causes of Diarrhoea in Toddlers

Some of the common causes are –

1. Viral Infection

Most of the viruses that target toddlers, such as rotavirus, adenovirus, norovirus, astrovirus, and a bunch of other viruses lead to diarrhoea along with stomach pain, vomiting, fever, body ache and so on.

2. Bacterial Infection

Most bacteria like staphylococcus, shigella, e.coli, salmonella, and others are primarily responsible for stomach infections and diarrhoea. Your kids may suffer from cramping while passing stool, pass stools with blood, have a fever, and experience severe diarrhoea if infected with one of these bacteria. Certain infections, such as the ones from e.coli, can be extremely dangerous for your kid, even though the others are not. Listeria is another common culprit that causes diarrhoea in kids. It thrives in cold temperatures and is found in meats, unpasteurised cheeses, and even in ice cream. It is thus very important to avoid storing foods in the refrigerator for longer times and consume them as fresh as possible. 

3. Infection in the Ear

Some kinds of bacterial or viral infection in the ear can also be a reason to trigger diarrhoea, mostly in children who are less than 2 years old. At times, a child could have an ear infection, along with cold, and also show symptoms like vomiting, diarrhoea and poor appetite. For younger toddlers, the only sign to an ear infection is that the kid will be fussy all the time, pull and tug on their ears, and cry due to earaches.


4. Infection Due to Parasites

Parasites usually attack the bowels or intestines and cause diarrhoea. A parasite named Giardia is one of the most common parasites that affect toddlers. The affected child may suffer from extremely watery diarrhoea, bloating, gas, and cramps in the stomach. This parasitic infection usually spreads in places where a large number of people live together in groups, such as childcare homes, nursing homes, shelters, etc.

5. Effect of Antibiotics

While your child is on antibiotics or has just finished the course, he may experience diarrhoea as a side effect. This is because the antibiotics affect all kinds of bacteria in the body, including the good ones that are present in the intestines and are needed to digest food.

6. Extreme Consumption of Juice

Consumption of juice that has a lot of fructose or sorbitol, as well as sweetened pulps and drinks can cause bloating, and result in diarrhoeic stools. Usually, high fructose juices like prune juice and apple juice, soda and sweetened beverages may cause diarrhoea. Reducing the consumption of juice/ beverages usually addresses the problem. Stick to a glass of juice on a daily basis, and your kid should be fine.

7. Food Allergies

Kids’ bodies could react to the usual proteins found in foods and attack it like it’s fighting an infection. The body’s immune system can trigger a severe reaction when exposed to foods like cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, wheat, fish, etc. Most of the times, toddlers experience diarrhoea, gas, and stomach pains. At times, there might be blood in the stool, vomiting, hives, rashes, or even breathing difficulties.

8. Intolerance of Food Items

Where food allergies trigger the immune system, intolerance is the failure to process a particular food item. For example, in a kid who is lactose intolerant, the body fails to produce the enzyme that is required to digest lactose. Hence, it stays undigested and causes diarrhoea and gas. Some kids may be intolerant towards other foods like eggs, poultry, other milk products like cheese, and raw foods also.

9. Reaction to Poisoning

Diarrhoea can also be a reaction to some sort of poisoning which could occur because of accidentally swallowing an external object, or chemicals, or due to consumption of a wild berry or plant leaf. The symptoms may also include vomiting, gas, dizziness and stomachaches. In such cases, it’s necessary to give the kid immediate medical attention.

10. Inflammatory Bowel Disorder

Inflammatory bowel disorders is a chronic condition that causes diarrhoea, and also leads to irritation and inflammation of the intestines. The condition may reoccur through consumption of contaminated foods and beverages. There are several types of bowel disorders that toddlers could suffer from. Some occur due to parasites, bacterias, while some occur due to food elements like gluten, lactose, etc. The common symptoms of inflammatory bowel disorders are vomiting, blood in the stool, weight loss, stomachaches, and discomfort in the gut. In case you have observed all or some of these symptoms, it is better to seek medical attention immediately.

As a parent, you need to be able to identify if your toddler is severely affected by toddler diarrhoea. You must, therefore, watch out for these symptoms.

Symptoms of Toddler Diarrhoea

These symptoms will help you identify if your little one is suffering from toddler diarrhoea, and whether you should seek medical aid immediately.

  • More than three liquid watery stools on a daily basis.
  • Foul-smelling, pale-coloured stools with unusual consistency.
  • Presence of small undigested food bits from a recent meal.
  • Slight tummy pain or occasional constipation.
  • Stomachaches and discomfort.


When you seek medical attention, the paediatrician will carry out a thorough check-up to make a diagnosis, which we shall discuss a little in detail in the next section.

How Is the Diagnosis Made?

If your child has diarrhoea and you call the doctor, he will most likely ask you to observe if it continues for more than a few days. If it does, he will then examine your kid and understand the history of the events that led to it. A stool sample might be taken to check for the presence of blood, bacteria and viruses. Your doctor might inquire about any food allergies that your kid might have or any intolerances that might be present in the immediate family to come down to a possible reason that triggered the diarrhoea.

Once the diagnosis is made, you’ll have to patiently help your little one heal. You will find the next section particularly helpful to deal with toddler diarrhoea.

Useful Tips to Deal With Toddler Diarrhoea

Knowing what foods to give to toddlers with diarrhoea is essential to ensure their health and to manage the condition. This brings a lot of food choices into question. Here are some ways you can provide your kid with some relief from the condition.

  • Start by introducing more fat-based food items in your child’s diet. Fat may not be the best thing for adults; however, it is highly necessary for toddlers. The diet of a child should contain nearly 40 percent of fat. Opting for yoghurts, puddings and similar food items should be encouraged.
  • Cut down the consumption of fruit juices to one glass a day. This is because juices contain a lot of sugar that can stay as a residue in the bowel leading to diarrhoea. Increase the consumption of water as it is the best alternative to quench your kid’s thirst. If your child still insists for juice, dilute it heavily with water.
  • The amount of fibre in your child’s diet should be balanced. Too much fibre in food is as dangerous as too less. Fibre is generally not digested by the body and comes out as part of the excreta. At the same time, it assists the bowel movements and reduces chances of constipation. Since fibre is present in fruits and vegetables, keep track of your child’s diet. In case it is low in fibre, increasing it to a normal level is good since fibrous foods absorb excess water in the bowels. If the fibre content is high, it can stress the bowel and cause liquid stools. Hence, it is wise to feed less fibre to your kids.

Providing your toddler with the right food and timely treatment can be a good solution to stop diarrhoea. So, can you use adult medication to treat toddler diarrhoea? Let’s find out!

Can You Give Adult’s Anti-Diarrhoeal Medication to Toddler?

That is a strict no-no! Adults and toddlers have vastly different bodies, which is why the constituents of the medicine and their dosage amounts vary majorly for both of them. In certain cases, your doctor might recommend giving adult medication in a small amount, but only if the case is severe. Any unsupervised administration of adult medicine can be dangerous for your kid.

Therefore, when you see signs of toddler diarrhoea, you must contact a paediatrician immediately. If you are still clueless about it, the next sub-head should help you out.

When Should You Visit the Paediatrician?

  • When your child has been vomiting multiple times throughout the day.
  • When your child shows strong signs of dehydration, has a dry mouth, does not urinate even once in six hours.
  • When there is a presence of blood in the stool or if the stool is black in colour.
  • When your child has a fever higher than 102 degrees.
  • When your child has breathing problems and falls unconscious.
  • When your child suddenly starts having convulsions.

It can be quite cumbersome to manage toddler diarrhoea. And, we are sure you’d agree that prevention is better than cure. So, how can you prevent diarrhoea in your toddler? Read on to know more.

What Can You Do to Prevent Diarrhoea in Toddler?

Here are some preventive measures you can take to avoid toddler diarrhoea in your kid.

  • Maintaining hygiene in every activity.
  • Wash hands regularly to keep them free from any microbes.
  • Sterilise toys or objects your child often touches.


  • Wash your hands well before and after handling your child or having cleaned his diapers.
  • Wash your hands as well as the child’s hands for a good twenty to thirty fifteen seconds, using soap and water.

Although these measures should help you prevent diarrhoea in your toddler, here are a few more things you must remember to ensure the condition doesn’t worsen and that your baby is safe and healthy.

Things to Remember

  • Toddler’s diarrhoea doesn’t always mean your baby has serious medical issues. Most of the times, the child is healthy but has diarrhoea because of one of the minor reasons mentioned above, which can be treated or will go away in a few days.
  • When changing the diet of your child, always check if the symptoms of diarrhoea aggravate further.
  • As a child grows, his digestive tract also starts maturing. This brings an improvement in the symptoms of diarrhoea.
  • Any unusual conditions that accompany diarrhoea, such as bloody stools, weight loss, fever, movement, or loss of bowel control, should be intimated to the doctor immediately.

Toddler diarrhoea is an uncommon condition but quite a normal one nonetheless. It is the body trying to catch up to the new diet and preparing for the growth cycles. Unless any complications accompany this condition, there is nothing to worry about, and your child’s development remains unabated. Most of the times, toddler diarrhoea can be managed with simple remedies mentioned above.

Also Read: Diarrhoea in Kids

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