Diarrhea from a viral infection usually lasts several days to 2 weeks, regardless of the type of treatment.

Acute watery Diarrhea (Acute Gastroenteritis)
Diarrhea is the sudden increase in the frequency and looseness of stools. Mild diarrhea is the passage of a few loose or mushy stools. Severe diarrhea is the passage of many watery stools. The best indicator of the severity of the diarrhea is its frequency.

What all can be given during Diarrhea?

Increased fluids and dietary changes are the main treatment for diarrhea.

Frequent, watery diarrhea

  • Fluids

Encourage your child to drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration. Any fluid with both salt and sugar given in adequate amount is fine but we need to avoid only sugary drinks like juices etc. Salt helps in better absorption into the gut. Milk and water are both fine. However, if your child refuses solids, give your child just milk, rather than water. Offer short and frequent meals.

ORS (roughly 10 ml/kg per stool ) or simply as much as possible. Encourage child and offer ORS after every motion.

Avoid fruit juices, because they all make diarrhea worse.

  • Table foods

Keep giving your child table foods while he has diarrhea. The choice of food is important. Banana, curd, dalia, khichri, dal and rice , nimbu pani , sikangi etc. Starchy foods are digested best. Examples of such foods are dried cereals, grains, bread, crackers, rice, pasta, and mashed potatoes. Soft-boiled eggs and yogurt are easily digested and provide some protein.

Mild diarrhea (loose stools)

Follow a regular diet with a few simple changes:

  • Eat more foods containing starch. Starchy foods are easily digested during diarrhea. Examples are cereal, breads, crackers, rice, mashed potatoes, and pasta.
  • Drink extra water. Avoid all fruit juices and carbonated drinks.
  • Milk and milk products are fine.
  • Avoid beans or any other foods that cause loose stools

What is the treatment and precautions?

There is no effective, safe drug for diarrhea. Extra fluids and diet therapy work best.

WHO recommends only 2 things: ORS and Zinc.

  • ORS
  • Zinc: 20mg/kg once a day for 14 days for children more than 6 months.
  • If you are breastfeeding, then keep breastfeeding on demand,
  • Common mistakes

Fruit juices, cold aerated drinks, glucose water, Kool-Aid and soda pop, should be avoided because they contain no salt and too much sugar. Use only the fluids suggested here.

Fruit juices (especially apple and grape) should be avoided because they are too concentrated and make the diarrhea worse.

Clear fluids alone should be used for only 4 to 6 hours because the body needs more calories than clear fluids can provide. Milk is a good well balanced fluid for diarrhea.

The most dangerous myth is that the intestine should be “put to rest.” Restricting fluids can cause dehydration.

  • Prevention

Diarrhea can be very contagious. Always wash your hands after changing diapers or using the toilet. This is crucial for keeping everyone in the family from getting diarrhea.

When should I call my child’s doctor (Pediatrician)?


  • There are signs of dehydration (no urine in more than 10-12 hours, very dry mouth, no tears).
  • Any blood appears in the diarrhea.
  • The diarrhea is severe (more than 8 stools in the last 8 hours).
  • The diarrhea is watery AND your child also vomits repeatedly.
  • Your child starts acting very sick.
  • Oral intake almost zero i.e. child not even taking plain water

What should parents avoid giving their children if they have diarrhea or are vomiting?
Do not give your child sugary drinks, such as fruit juice or sweetened fruit drinks, carbonated drinks, sweetened tea, broth or rice water. These have the wrong amounts of water, salts and sugar. They can also make your child’s diarrhea worse.