Diarrhea in Infants

Although babies often have soft stools, especially before they start eating solid foods, stools that are looser than usual, watery, or more frequent than usual are called diarrhea. Common causes of diarrhea in babies include infections of the stomach and intestines (gastrointestinal tract) or changes in diet. 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 one to two weeks also should be discussed with a doctor.

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

For questions about diarrhea in children, visit our Diarrhea in Children Decision Guide.

Click here to begin.

Your baby has diarrhea. Does he have any of the following symptoms?

  • a fever (rectal temperature of 100.4 F or more)

  • a belly that seems swollen, hard, or painful when touched

  • blood in the stool

  • rash or jaundice (yellow color in the skin).

Yes, my baby has one or more of those symptoms.

No, my baby does not have any of these serious symptoms.

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

You can tell that your baby may be dehydrated if he

  • is making less urine than usual or has not had a wet diaper in six to eight hours

  • is sleepier than usual (lethargic)

  • is moving about less

  • is eating or feeding less

  • has a fast heart rate

  • has sunken eyes or a sunken soft spot on the head

  • has a dry mouth or tongue

  • has pale, dry skin

  • does not have any tears when crying

  • is losing weight.

Is your baby showing any of these signs of dehydration?

Yes, my baby could be dehydrated.

No, my baby does not seem to be dehydrated.

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