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Infant Diarrhoea: What Should Be Done?

[fa icon="calendar"] Oct 6, 2020 10:00:00 AM / by Calvin Leong


Infant Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is frequent loose and watery bowel movements. Your baby's bowel movements are normally soft and can even be loose, especially if you breastfeed your baby. Diarrhoea is different from your baby's normal bowel movements. Diarrhoea:

  • usually comes on suddenly.
  • is frequent.
  • is watery.
  • occurs in large amounts.

Diarrhoea can make your infant weak and cause them to become dehydrated. Dehydration can make your infant tired and thirsty. Your infant may also urinate less, have a dry mouth and have decreased tear production. Dehydration can develop very quickly in an infant, and it can be very dangerous.

Diarrhoea typically lasts between two to three days. In most cases, it will go away with home care. It is important to treat your infant's diarrhoea as instructed by his or her healthcare provider.

Follow These Instructions At Home:

Eating and drinking

 Follow these recommendations as instructed by your baby's healthcare provider:

  • Give your infant an oral rehydration solution (ORS), if directed. This is an over-the-counter medicine that helps return your infant's body to its normal balance of nutrients and water. It is found at pharmacies and retail stores. Do not give extra water to your infant.
  • Continue to breastfeed or bottle-feed your infant. Do this in small amounts and frequently. Do not add water to the formula or breast milk.
  • If your infant eats solid foods, continue your infant's regular diet. Avoid spicy or fatty foods. Do not give new foods to your infant.
  • Avoid giving your infant fluids that contain a lot of sugar, such as juice.


  • Give over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your infant's healthcare provider.
  • Do not give your child aspirin because of the association with Reye syndrome.
  • If your infant was prescribed an antibiotic medicine, give it as told by your infant's healthcare provider. Do not stop giving the antibiotic even if your infant starts to feel better.

Closeup of dentists hands using soap dispenser in clinic-1

General Instructions

  • Wash your hands often using soap and water. If soap and water are not available, sanitize your hands using hand sanitiser.
  • Make sure that others in your household also wash their hands well and often.
  • Watch your infant's condition for any changes.
  • To prevent diaper rash:
    • Change diapers frequently.
    • Clean the diaper area with warm water on a soft cloth.
    • Dry the diaper area and apply diaper ointment.
    • Make sure that your infant's skin is dry before you put a clean diaper on him or her.
  • Have your infant drink enough fluids to wet 5–6 diapers in 24 hours.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your infant's healthcare provider. This is important.

Baby hand raised up

Contact A Healthcare Provider If Your Infant:

  • has a fever.
  • has diarrhoea that gets worse or does not get better in 24 hours.
  • has diarrhoea with vomiting or other new symptoms.
  • will not drink fluids.
  • cannot keep fluids down (vomiting).
  • is wetting less than five diapers in 24 hours.

Get Help Right Away If:

  • You notice signs of dehydration in your infant, such as:
  • your infant has bloody or black stools or stools that look like tar.
  • your infant seems to be in pain and has a tender or swollen abdomen.
  • your infant has difficulty breathing or is breathing very quickly.
  • your infant's heart is beating very quickly.
  • your infant's skin feels cold and clammy.
  • you cannot wake up your infant.
  • your infant who is younger than three months has a temperature of 38°C or higher.

Happy mother holding a beautiful little baby


  • Diarrhoea can cause dehydration to develop very quickly, and it can be very dangerous.
  • Follow your healthcare provider's recommendations for your infant's eating and drinking habits.
  • Follow your healthcare provider's instructions for medicines, hand washing, and preventing diaper rash.
  • Contact a healthcare provider if your infant has diarrhoea that gets worse or does not get better in 24 hours, or if your infant has other new symptoms, such as a fever or vomiting.
  • Get help right away if you notice signs of dehydration in your infant.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your healthcare provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your healthcare provider.


Boschi Pinto C, Lanata CF, Black RE. The global burden of childhood diarrhea. In: Ehiri JE, Meremikwu M, eds. International maternal and child health. Washington, DC: Springer Publishing (in press).

 Curtis V, Cairncross S: Effect of washing hands with soap on diarrhoea risk in the community: a systematic review. Lancet Infect Dis 2013; 3: pp. 275-281.

Kotloff KL, Nataro JP, Blackwelder WC, et. al.: Burden and aetiology of diarrhoeal disease in infants and young children in developing countries (the Global Enteric Multicenter Study, GEMS): a prospective, case-control study. Lancet 2013

UNICEF, WHO: Joint statement: clinical management of acute diarrhoea. http://www.who.int/child_adolescent_health/documents/who_fch_cah_04_7/en/index.html (accessed Sep 15, 2020).


For more information on infant diarrhoea, visit:

Ministry of Health Malaysia - Diarrhoea

Ministry of Health Malaysia- Antidiarrheal Medication

Positive Parenting – Acute Diarrhoea In Children


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Topics: Wellness

Calvin Leong

Written by Calvin Leong

Calvin Leong holds a Master in Medical Education from the University of Dundee, United Kingdom. He is certified in Clinical Wound Care by the ASEAN Wound Care Association. Calvin has 20 years of clinical and lecturing experience focusing on Mentoring in Healthcare, Traumatology and Medical Sciences. Calvin is HRDC certified trainer. He is also a Life Member of The Malaysian Association for the Study of Pain (MASP) and the Malaysian Society of Wound Care Professionals (MSWCP).

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