Diarrhea in Children and Teens

Diarrhea in Children

Diarrhea is loose, watery, or more frequent soft bowel movements. Common causes of diarrhea in children include infections of the stomach and intestines (gastrointestinal tract), changes in diet or anxiety. Most cases of diarrhea are not serious, go away in a day or two and can be managed at home. However, diarrhea that happens along with persistent abdominal pain, fever, vomiting, or not urinating may require a doctor's attention. Diarrhea that seems to be getting worse or that lasts more than a week also should be discussed with a doctor.

Answering the questions in this tool will help you understand more about the possible causes of diarrhea in children, and will help you decide when to call your doctor.

For information on diarrhea in infants, visit our Diarrhea in Infants Decision Guide.

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Children with diarrhea can become dehydrated when they do not take in enough fluids to replace those liquids that are lost with the diarrhea.

Signs that your child may be dehydrated include

  • making less urine than usual or has not made any urine in six to eight hours

  • increased sleepiness (lethargy)

  • decreased activity

  • decreased appetite or poor feeding

  • fast heart rate

  • sunken eyes

  • dry mouth or tongue

  • pale, dry skin

  • lack of tears

  • weight loss.

Does your child show any signs of dehydration?

Yes, my child may be dehydrated.

No, my child does not seem dehydrated.

Does your child have diarrhea and any of the following symptoms?

  • high fever (higher than 102 F or 39 C) or shaking chills

  • blood in the stool.

Yes, my child has one or more of these symptoms.

No, my child does not have any of these symptoms.

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