Diet for Diarrhea Only (Child)

child soft diet foods.

Diarrhea is common in children. A child can quickly lose too much fluid and become dehydrated. This is the loss of too much water and minerals from the body. This can be serious and even life threatening. When this occurs, body fluids must be replaced. This is done by giving your child small amounts of liquids often.

If your child shows signs of dehydration, the healthcare provider may tell you to use an oral rehydration solution. Oral rehydration solution can replace lost minerals called electrolytes. Oral rehydration solution can be used in addition to breast or bottle feedings. Oral rehydration solution may also reduce diarrhea. You can buy oral rehydration solution at grocery stores and pharmacies without a prescription.

In cases of severe dehydration, a child may need to go to a hospital to have intravenous (IV) fluids.

Giving liquids and food

If using oral rehydration solution:

  • Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions when giving the solution to your child.

  • Use only prepared, purchased oral rehydration solution. Don't make your own solution. Sports drinks are not the same as oral rehydration solutions. Sports drinks contain too much sugar and not enough electrolytes for correct dehydration.

  • If diarrhea gets better after 2 to 3 hours, you can stop giving oral rehydration solution.

For solid foods:

  • Follow the diet your child’s provider advises.

  • If desired and tolerated, your child may eat regular food.

  • If unable to eat regular food, your child can drink clear liquids such as water, or suck on ice cubes. Don’t give high-sugar fluids like juice, sports drinks, or soda. Slowly increase the amount of clear liquids. Alternate these fluids with oral rehydration solution as the provider advises.

  • Don't feed your child high-fat foods.

  • Your child can start a regular diet 12 to 24 hours after diarrhea has stopped. Continue to give plenty of clear liquids.

  • You can resume your child's normal diet over time as he or she feels better. Don’t force your child to eat, especially if he or she is having stomach pain or cramping. Don’t feed your child large amounts at a time, even if he or she is hungry. This can make your child feel worse. You can give your child more food over time if he or she can tolerate it. Foods you can give include cereal, mashed potatoes, applesauce, mashed bananas, crackers, dry toast, rice, oatmeal, bread, noodles, pretzels, soups with rice or noodles, and cooked vegetables.

  • If the symptoms come back, go back to a simple diet or clear liquids.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider, or as advised. If a stool sample was taken or cultures were done, call the healthcare provider for the results as instructed.

Call 911

Call 911 if your child has any of these symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Confusion

  • Extreme drowsiness or loss of consciousness

  • Trouble walking

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Stiff neck

  • Seizure

When to seek medical advice

Call your child’s healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Abdominal pain that gets worse

  • Constant lower right abdominal pain

  • More than 8 diarrhea stools within 8 hours

  • Continued severe diarrhea for more than 24 hours

  • Blood in vomit or stool

  • Reduced oral intake

  • Dark urine or no urine or dry diapers for 4 to 6 hours in an infant or toddler, or 6 to 8 hours in an older child, no tears when crying, sunken eyes, or dry mouth

  • Fussiness or crying that cannot be soothed

  • Unusual drowsiness

  • New rash

  • Diarrhea lasts more than 10 days

  • Fever (see Children and fever, below)

Fever and children

Always use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Never use a mercury thermometer.

For infants and toddlers, be sure to use a rectal thermometer correctly. A rectal thermometer may accidentally poke a hole in (perforate) the rectum. It may also pass on germs from the stool. Always follow the product maker’s directions for proper use. If you don’t feel comfortable taking a rectal temperature, use another method. When you talk to your child’s healthcare provider, tell him or her which method you used to take your child’s temperature.

Here are guidelines for fever temperature. Ear temperatures aren’t accurate before 6 months of age. Don’t take an oral temperature until your child is at least 4 years old.

Infant under 3 months old:

  • Ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead (temporal artery) temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 99°F (37.2°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child age 3 to 36 months:

  • Rectal, forehead (temporal artery), or ear temperature of 102°F (38.9°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child of any age:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under 2 years old. Or a fever that lasts for 3 days in a child 2 years or older.

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