If a child has loose stools several times a day over a period of weeks or even months, yet remains healthy and grows well this is likely to be a condition called toddler diarrhoea.
Why some children suffer from this condition and others don’t is unclear, but in some cases certain changes to a child’s diet may help to relieve the problem.
Frequent, smelly, loose stools, often containing recognisable foods such as carrots, sweet corn or peas, passed several times a day by an otherwise healthy child, could be a type of diarrhoea known as ‘toddler diarrhoea’
This type of chronic diarrhoea occurs in children – although it’s more common in boys – aged between one and five years of age.
Sometimes the diarrhoea is accompanied by slight cramps. The defining symptom of the condition is that despite having diarrhoea the child remains well and continues to grow normally.
Although the cause is unclear, it is known that it is not caused by food intolerance, poor absorption of food or by a serious bowel problem.
It is thought that the large bowel (colon) may not work as efficiently in some toddlers as it does in others. This leads to fluid, which would normally be absorbed by the body being kept in the bowel, which causes runny, more frequent stools.
Toddler diarrhoea doesn’t last beyond five years, probably because the large bowel becomes more efficient as the child grows so the condition disappears.
Your paediatrician will want to examine your child. He may also want to make sure that the diarrhoea has no underlying cause so tests to check for conditions such as coeliac disease, or an infection causing gastroenteritis may be carried out.
If there is a history of food allergy or food intolerance in the family an elimination diet may be introduced over a few weeks so that this can be ruled out.
There are no drugs to treat the condition. In some cases, changes in diet have been known to help.
You should keep your baby hydrated and give him plenty of fluids. You should continue with breast feeding or formula feeding. Children over 12 months can be given water, oral rehydration solution (ORS) or electrolyte solution.
However, it’s important not to cut out foods in the main food groups from your child’s diet without specialist advice.
Although there is no guarantee that making changes to your toddler’s diet will solve the problem, it is worth considering the following:
It important not to confuse ‘toddler diarrhoea’ with the type of diarrhoea that could be a symptom of something serious. You should seek medical advice if your toddler has any of the following:
Your doctor or paediatrician are the best people to advise you if you have any concerns about your child’s health.