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My Child Keeps Having Diarrhea: Possible Causes

My Child Keeps Having Diarrhea: Possible Causes

Loose, watery stool here and there may not be a cause for concern, but it’s a different story when a child keeps on having diarrhea. What causes persistent and chronic diarrhea in kids? Find out here.

Categories of Diarrhea

Before we discuss the possible reasons a child keeps on having diarrhea, let’s first explain the categories of this condition.

Diarrhea lasting a couple of days (less than a week) is referred to as acute diarrhea. This kind of loose bowel movement typically goes away on its own and does not require medical treatment, other than measures to make sure that dehydration doesn’t occur.

A child who experiences diarrhea for more than 7 days has persistent diarrhea; if their loose, watery bowel movements last for more than 4 weeks, it’s called chronic diarrhea. The child may continually experience diarrhea, or it may come and go during this period of time.

Possible Causes of Recurring Diarrhea in Children

If your child keeps having diarrhea, the reason could be one of these four conditions:

Infections

Infections from bacteria, viruses, and parasites can trigger persistent and chronic diarrhea in a child. Reports say that after the infection, kids might develop difficulty in digesting some carbohydrates or proteins. This can lead to prolonged diarrhea–one that can last for 6 weeks.

Examples of infections that a child may experience are:

Parents are highly discouraged from giving medications to their children without a doctor’s approval.

This is because conditions require different interventions. For instance, viral gastroenteritis may only require supportive treatment, while a child with bacterial food poisoning may need antibiotics.

child keeps having diarrhea

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Persistent diarrhea in a child could be due to inflammatory bowel disease, a condition where there is chronic inflammation in the digestive tract. Two IBDs are Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis, both of which lead to chronic diarrhea.

Functional GI Disorders

Another possible reason for persistent diarrhea in a child is functional GI disorder.

A functional GI disorder refers to a condition wherein there are some issues with how the gastrointestinal tract works. The GI tract is a series of organs connected in a long tube that functions to process and digest foods.

Please note that a functional GI disorder is not a disease; in fact, even with the symptoms, the GI tract doesn’t typically sustain damage.

If your child keeps on having diarrhea, he or she might have:

  • Traveler’s Diarrhea – a common condition among toddlers and preschoolers. Experts believe that a diet high in sugar and low in fat triggers this disorder. The good news is that the condition doesn’t affect the child’s growth and development. It usually goes away on its own, too.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome – a condition that results in symptoms like abdominal pain and diarrhea. The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but experts suspect there could be problems with the nerves.

Food Allergies and Intolerances

Finally, if your child keeps on having diarrhea, it might be a good idea to look back on their diet. Do they frequently have loose, watery stool after consuming a specific food? If that’s the case, it could be food allergies or intolerances.

A food allergy means that the body’s immune system reacts to a certain food, such as cow’s milk, seafood, cereal grains, or eggs. Food intolerance indicates that your child has difficulty digesting specific foods, which often results in digestive symptoms.

A good example of food intolerance is Celiac disease, an autoimmune illness in which the child cannot tolerate gluten. When ingested, gluten can damage the small intestine and produce symptoms such as diarrhea.

Please note that in some food allergies, the symptoms are more severe, such as the development of rashes and difficulty breathing.

The Next Steps

The intervention depends on the cause and severity of symptoms. For this reason, a child who keeps on having diarrhea must be brought to the doctor as soon as possible.

Learn more about Digestive Problems in Children here.

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

Sources

Persistent Diarrhea Malabsorption
https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/conditions/persistent-diarrhea–malabsorption
Accessed February 23, 2020

Chronic Diarrhea in Children
https://www.niddk.nih.gov/-/media/Files/Digestive-Diseases/Chronic_Diarrhea_in_Children_508.pdf
Accessed February 23, 2020

What is IBS?
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs/
Accessed February 23, 2020

Symptoms & Causes of Chronic Diarrhea in Children
https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/chronic-diarrhea-children/symptoms-causes
Accessed February 23, 2020

Diarrhea
https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/diarrhea.html
Accessed February 23, 2020

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Medical reviewed by Elfred Landas
Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N.
Updated Feb 25
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