Treatment for Chronic Diarrhea in Children

How do doctors treat chronic diarrhea in children?

How doctors treat chronic diarrhea in children depends on the cause. Doctors may be able to reduce or stop chronic diarrhea by treating the cause.

Infections of the digestive tract

Your child’s doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat bacterial infections and medicines that target parasites to treat parasitic infections. If your child has long-lasting problems digesting certain carbohydrates or proteins after an infection, a doctor may recommend changes in the foods your child eats.

Your child’s doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat your child’s small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and may recommend changes in what your child eats.

Functional GI disorders

Toddler’s diarrhea
For toddler’s diarrhea, treatment is usually not needed. Most children outgrow toddler’s diarrhea by the time they start school (around age 5). In many children, reducing sugar-sweetened beverages and increasing the amount of fiber and fat in the diet may improve symptoms of toddler’s diarrhea.

Irritable bowel syndrome
A doctor may treat your child’s irritable bowel syndrome with changes in what your child eats and medicines.

Food allergies and intolerances

Food allergies
If your child has a food allergy, his or her doctor will recommend avoiding foods that trigger the allergy. Keeping a diary of what your child eats and drinks and his or her bowel habits will help your child’s doctor find out what foods trigger the allergy.

Various foods that may cause food allergies.
If your child has a food allergy, his or her doctor will recommend avoiding foods that trigger the allergy.

Celiac disease
If your child has celiac disease, his or her doctor will recommend avoiding all foods and products that contain gluten.

Lactose intolerance
If your child is lactose intolerant, his or her doctor will recommend reducing or avoiding foods and beverages that contain milk or milk products. Most children with lactose intolerance can tolerate some amount of lactose in what they eat or drink. The amount of change needed in what a child eats or drinks depends on how much lactose a child can consume without symptoms. Your child’s doctor may recommend dietary supplements that contain lactase, the enzyme that helps digest lactose. Your child’s doctor may also recommend calcium supplements.

Fructose intolerance
If your child is fructose intolerant, his or her doctor will recommend reducing or avoiding foods and beverages that contain fructose.

Sucrose intolerance
If your child is sucrose intolerant, his or her doctor will recommend reducing or avoiding foods and beverages that contain sucrose.

Inflammatory bowel disease

A doctor may use medicines, surgery, and changes in what your child eats to treat inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

February 2017
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Mark Donowitz, M.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine