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First Aid & Emergencies

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Diarrhea Treatment

Call 911 if the person or child: 

  • Is very dehydrated
  • Has severe abdominal pain

Treating Dehydration

1. Take Fluids

  • Ask your doctor what fluids are best for you or your child. Here are some basic tips:
    1. Give an adult plenty of clear fluid, like fruit juices, soda, sports drinks and clear broth. Avoid milk or milk-based products, alcohol, apple juice, and caffeine while you have diarrhea and for 3 to 5 days after you get better. They may make diarrhea worse.
    2. Give a child or infant frequent sips of a rehydration solution such as Pedialyte, CeraLyte, or Infalyte. Do not add salt tablets to a baby’s bottle.
    3. Make sure the person drinks more fluids than they are losing through diarrhea. If they are unable to keep up with their losses, call a doctor.

2. Rest

  • Have the person rest as needed and avoid strenuous exercise. Keep a sick child home from school or day care.

3. Ease Into Eating

  • Feed an infant or child easily digested foods; the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) is a good choice as soon as they can tolerate food.
  • For an adult, add semisolid and low-fiber foods gradually as diarrhea stops. Avoid spicy, greasy, or fatty foods.

3. When to Call a Doctor

  • Call a doctor right away if:
    • You suspect that you or your child is dehydrated.
    • An infant 3 months old or younger has vomiting or diarrhea.
    • There is blood or mucus in the stool, or the stool is black.
    • You think the person needs over-the-counter diarrhea medication; some kinds of diarrhea can get worse with anti-diarrheal medications.
    • You think the person has traveler’s diarrhea or drank contaminated water.
    • The person is taking an antibiotic that may be causing the diarrhea.
    • There is stomach pain that is not relieved by having a bowel movement.
    • There is any fever.
    • The person is losing more fluid in his stool than he can replace by drinking fluids.


Also seek medical attention if:

  • You or your child has any other medical problems and has diarrhea.
  • Diarrhea in an adult worsens or doesn’t clear up after 2 or 3 days
  • A child doesn’t feel better after 24 hours

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on September 08, 2015

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