The goal of treatment is to prevent dehydration by making sure the body has enough water and fluids. Fluids and electrolytes (salt and minerals) that are lost through diarrhea or vomiting must be replaced by drinking extra fluids. Even if you are able to eat, you should still drink extra fluids between meals.
- Older children and adults can drink sports beverages such as Gatorade, but these should not be used for younger children. Instead, use the electrolyte and fluid replacement solutions or freezer pops available in food and drug stores.
- Do NOT use fruit juice (including apple juice), sodas or cola (flat or bubbly), Jell-O, or broth. These liquids do not replace lost minerals and can make diarrhea worse.
- Drink small amounts of fluid (2 - 4 oz.) every 30 - 60 minutes. Do not try to force down large amounts of fluid at one time, which can cause vomiting. Use a teaspoon or syringe for an infant or small child.
- Babies can continue to drink breast milk or formula along with extra fluids. You do NOT need to switch to a soy formula.
Try eating small amounts of food frequently. Foods to try include:
- Cereals, bread, potatoes, lean meats
- Plain yogurt, bananas, fresh apples
If you have diarrhea and are unable to drink or keep down fluids because of nausea or vomiting, you may need fluids through a vein (IV). Infants and young children are more likely to need IV fluids.
Parents should closely monitor the number of wet diapers an infant or young child has while sick to watch for signs of dehydration.
People taking water pills (diuretics) who develop diarrhea may be told by their health care provider to stop taking the diuretic during the acute episode. However, DO NOT stop taking any prescription medicine without first talking to your health care provider.
Antibiotics do not work for viruses.
You can buy medicines at the drugstore that can help stop or slow diarrhea.
- Do not use these medicines without talking to your health care provider if you have bloody diarrhea, a fever, or if the diarrhea is severe.
- Do not give these medicines to children.