When your toddler has a runny tummy


Every parent worries when their toddler gets sick because their immune system is not strong enough to fight off infections. When a toddler has a runny tummy, it’s easy for them to get dehydrated.

Causes of a runny tummy

Nthabiseng Leso, a senior brand manager at Huggies®, says bacterial infections are among the things that cause diarrhoea in a toddler. “There are several causes for an upset tummy and these may include bacterial, viral or parasitic infections. In some cases, diarrhoea may be a result of intolerance to certain foods, such as intolerance to lactose. And one of the most common causes of diarrhoea in toddlers and infants is a gastroenteritis, or stomach flu. A child may also suffer from a runny tummy as a result of taking antibiotics and this can be corrected by eating yoghurt, which has live cultures, and will correct the balance of good and bad bacteria in the tummy or taking a probiotic while on antibiotics,” says Nthabiseng.

Dangers toddlers can face

Lynn Bluff, a registered nurse, midwife and childbirth educator at Huggies®, says there are dangers that a child can face if the runny tummy is not treated. “If the runny tummy is not treated, children can easily lose too much fluid and become dehydrated. They may become weak, irritable, have a dry mouth and have pale skin. Their eyes and fontanelle (the soft spot on the top of their head) may become sunken. If they become dehydrated, they may not pass much urine. Their urine will be dark in colour and have a strong smell. They may lose their appetite and have cold hands and feet. It may be difficult to tell how much urine they’re passing when they have diarrhoea,” says Lynn. Lynn says parents should pay attention to the warning signs and approach a professional as soon as possible.

Warning signs to look out for

  • Runny stools for longer than 24 hours.
  • Very watery stools coupled with vomiting.
  • Irritability and continuous crying.
  • Sunken fontanelle, cheeks, eyes and tummy.
  • A dry tongue or mouth.
  • When the child becomes weak.

Safe foods to help prevent diarrhoea

Lynn says it is important to watch what your child eats when they have a runny tummy. “Serving low-fibre foods helps your toddler’s stool firm up so their symptoms ease,” says Lynn. When your child vomits, or has diarrhoea, they lose electrolytes that help balance the fluids in their body. Replace the electrolytes by giving them bananas to eat. Bland food, such as baked potatoes and white rice, can help settle your child’s stomach. Don’t serve the child greasy food or dairy products because they can make the situation worse.

Remedies a parent can use

Apart from other treatments, it is important for a parent to know the right remedies they can use for their toddler. “An easy rehydrating solution can be made at home to replace the lost electrolytes. This is done by boiling a litre of water and adding half a teaspoon of salt and six teaspoons of sugar. The solution is cooled and given frequently to the child. It is important to note that this solution is not intended as a cure for diarrhoea, but it only offers temporary relief,” says Lynn.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24