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Diarrhea in Babies: Common Causes and Prevention

Medically reviewed by Rubilyn Saldana-Santiago, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jul 27, 2022

    Diarrhea in Babies: Common Causes and Prevention

    Diarrhea in babies may be common, but it can have life-threatening consequences, particularly when dehydration occurs. What are the possible causes of diarrhea in babies, and how can it be prevented? Find out here.

    Diarrhea in Babies, Defined

    Before we discuss the potential causes and prevention, let’s talk about what diarrhea in babies looks like.

    In infants, diarrhea isn’t just loose stool; it’s a watery stool that may occur up to 12 times a day. The distinction between loose and watery stools is crucial because it’s typical for babies to have a somewhat loose stool that does not lead to dehydration.

    Diarrhea in infants means 3 or more watery or very loose stools a day.

    Common Causes of Diarrhea in Babies     

    Many cases of diarrhea in infants happen due to acute infections caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites. Some antibiotics also cause acute cases of diarrhea in babies.  

    Recurring diarrhea, on the other hand, may happen because of underlying health concerns, such as lactose intolerance, cow’s milk allergy, or celiac disease.

    Regardless of the cause, babies with diarrhea should be seen by a doctor, so they can receive proper diagnosis and treatment.

    When to Seek Immediate Medical Help

    Some cases of mild diarrhea (up to 5 watery stools a day) can be treated at home by making sure the baby is feeding well and properly hydrated. However, remember that diarrhea in babies can lead to dehydration. For this reason, it’s best to bring them to the hospital right away if they:

    • Are younger than 3 months
    • Have fever, vomiting, or bloody or black stool
    • Appear weak and don’t want to feed
    • Exhibits signs of dehydration, like dry mouth, lack of tears, and sunken eyes.
    • Haven’t pass urine for 3 or more hours

    How to Prevent Diarrhea in Babies

    To prevent diarrhea in babies, the World Health Organization recommends the following measures:

    Make sure you have safe drinking water at home

    Boiling, according to the US Center for Disease Control, is the surest method to kill disease-causing microorganisms. This is why it’s important to boil water before drinking.

    An alternative to boiling is to purchase bottled water for your baby.

    Exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first 6 months of life

    Breast milk contains all the nutrients your baby needs for healthy growth and development. It also contains antibodies that protect them from some diseases that may lead to diarrhea.

    Practice frequent handwashing 

    Diarrhea-causing microorganisms can easily spread from unclean hands. Make sure you perform handwashing before handling your baby or preparing their food or milk.

    Keep baby items clean at all times

    You can also prevent diarrhea in babies by keeping all their items clean. Remember that infants usually put things in their mouth, so before giving them anything (toys, teething rings, etc.) make sure that it’s clean. Additionally, don’t forget to disinfect their crib or playpen.

    Talk to their pediatrician about the rotavirus vaccine

    Rotaviruses are a common cause of diarrheal diseases. The good news is, we have a rotavirus vaccine. The RV vaccine is not yet a part of the Expanded Program on Immunization, but it is available in the Philippines.

    Your child needs 3 doses, given in their 2nd, 4th, and 6th month. Talk to your child’s doctor if your child missed the vaccine.

    Key Takeaways

    Diarrhea in babies is common, but it can lead to dehydration, which may have life-threatening consequences. To prevent diarrhea in babies, safe drinking water, proper handwashing, and a clean environment are important. Parents can also talk to their child’s pediatrician about the rotavirus vaccine.

    Learn more about Baby Care here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Rubilyn Saldana-Santiago, MD


    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jul 27, 2022

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