Q. Should a child with diarrhea fast (not eat)?
A. A child with diarrhea needs to fast only if she is vomiting. If she is vomiting, offer small amounts of electrolyte solution often. Once she is rehydrated, let the child eat as much or as little of her usual diet.
Q. What about the BRAT diet?
A. The bananas, rice, applesauce, toast (BRAT) diet, once recommended while recovering from diarrhea, is no longer considered useful. Because BRAT diet foods are low in fiber, protein, and fat, the diet lacks enough nutrition to help a child’s gastrointestinal tract recover. Some pediatricians believe that it may actually make symptoms last longer. The AAP now recommends that children resume eating a normal, well-balanced diet appropriate for their age within 24 hours of getting sick. That diet should include a mix of fruits, vegetables, meat, yogurt, and complex carbohydrates.
Q. What about anti-diarrheal medicines?
A. Over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medicines are not recommended for children younger than 2. They can also be harmful in older children. Always check with your child’s doctor before giving your child any medicine for diarrhea.
Also, do not give your child homemade remedies. Because diarrhea is so common, many different home remedies have been tried through the years. Some of these homemade remedies may not be effective and some may actually make things worse.
Q. Do probiotics help diarrhea?
A. Probiotics are types of “good” bacteria that live in the intestines. They may have beneficial health effects, although more studies are needed. Some studies have shown that foods or infant formula containing probiotics can prevent or even treat diarrhea in children, whether this condition is chronic or acute, or associated with the use of antibiotics. To date, the strongest evidence suggests that probiotics may help prevent or improve viral gastroenteritis; they may also strengthen a child’s disease-fighting immune system and thus help fight off a number of infections that could lead to diarrhea.