How long should diarrhoea last in toddlers

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Diarrhoea is a very common childhood illness. It is characterised by an abnormal increase in the frequency of stooling and watery or loose bowel movements. Diarrhoea is usually caused by a microbial infection (bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi). Diarrhoea in toddlers typically lasts two to three days. If it lasts for a week, then it is an accompanying sign of a severe infection. This article will enlighten you on the causes, symptoms, treatment and how to prevent diarrhoea.

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What causes diarrhoea in toddlers?

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Diarrhoea in toddlers can be caused by a wide variety of factors like infections(bacteria, viruses, parasites), sugary food and drinks, intestinal conditions, food allergies and lactose intolerance.


Bacteria account for up to 40% of diarrhoea infections. Toddlers may get bacterial diarrhoea from contaminated food or water. Diarrhoea-causing bacteria like Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter and Clostridium difficil thrive in environments where toddlers can gain access to.


Viruses are also known to cause diarrhoea. Rotavirus is the primary cause of most childhood diarrhoea. It affects both toddlers and babies alike and can cause watery stool. Another common diarrhoea-causing virus is gastroenteritis, commonly referred to by some as ‘stomach flu’. It can irritate the intestinal lining and cause loose stool, fever, cramp and general body weakness. Other viruses that are known to cause diarrhoea are Norwalk virus, cytomegalovirus and coxsackievirus.


Toddlers can contact diarrhoea from parasites. These parasites are found in food and water that is contaminated. Parasites like Clostridium difficile, Giardiasis and Entamoeba histolytica, can infect the digestive tract.

Sugary diet

Sugary food and drink can trigger watery stool and bloating in toddlers—candy and beverages containing artificial sweeteners like sorbitol, mannitol and fructose. 

Lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance is the body’s inability to produce lactase. Lactase is the enzyme responsible for breaking down sugar in milk and other dairy products. A toddler with lactose intolerance will have symptoms like runny stomach, bloating and nausea, after consuming a food item like milk cheese. 

Food allergy

Food allergy is a relatively rare immune system disorder. If a toddler has a food allergy, his immune system reacts improperly when he eats a particular food. This condition is very different from lactose intolerance. Food allergy can cause serious digestive problems like loose bowel and vomiting.

Intestinal conditions

Intestinal diseases like Celiac disease and Inflammatory bowel disease can cause diarrhoea, bloating and decreased appetite. Though not infectious, inflammatory bowel disease affects the gastrointestinal tract, colon and even the rectum and anus. Celiac disease occurs when the body’s sensitivity to gluten.

How long will diarrhoea last in toddlers?

Most kids with diarrhoea often recover in less than a week. Some recover in two weeks. You must start treating your child for diarrhoea as soon as you notice it. Severe diarrhoea often dehydrates children. So your child needs to increase fluid intake to make up for the lost fluids expelled from the body as runny poop.

Symptoms of Diarrhea in toddlers

Read: How do I know if my baby has diarrhoea?

If your child has diarrhoea, you may notice he will complain of crampy abdominal pain, followed by loose, watery bowel movement in quick frequency. He might have a low-grade fever, an urge to throw up. You need to be wary of dehydration. Some symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Parched mouth.
  • Sullen eyes.
  • Infrequent urination.
  • Dry skin.
  • Dizziness.

How to treat Toddler’s Diarrhea in toddlers

  • Ensure your child stays away from drinks with sorbitol or artificial sweeteners with fructose as soon as you notice the watery stool.
  • Fibre is effective against diarrhoea by adding bulk to stool and normalise bowel function—especially the soluble ones like oats, barley and nuts.
  • Desist from using over-the-counter medications to treat your child’s diarrhoea. Your doctor should prescribe medications.
  • Oral rehydration therapy can be used to replace lost fluids and prevent dehydration.

How to prevent diarrhoea in toddlers

Diarrhoea can be prevented through the following simple methods:

Frequent handwashing

Teaching your child to wash his hands frequently with soap is a simple but effective way of keeping germs away. It is recommended that handwashing should be carried out after every trip to the toilet or after touching contaminated surfaces.


Vaccination is an excellent means of boosting your child’s immune system to fight against infections that can cause diarrhoea like Rotavirus.

Be watchful of what your child eats or drinks

Certain kinds of food should be avoided or eaten in moderation, especially if your child has any food intolerance or allergy.

Read: How and When to Start Potty Training

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