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Diarrhea is a condition in which more stool is produced than usual. Since newborns can have up to ten stools a day, often watery, it’s difficult to define what diarrhea is at Lucy’s age. Stomach viruses are the most common cause, but they’re rare, because she has to pick them up from other kids, and so far her social schedule is pretty clear. Another rare cause would be an intolerance to her formula.

When to worry

If Jimmy has a persistent fever

If the amount of diarrhea is enormous (more than ten times a day and extremely liquid)

If Lucy is also vomiting

If she has blood in her diaper

If she has a dry mouth, lethargy, and poor appetite, which could indicate dehydration.

If Lucy is drinking appropriately and not vomiting

See a doctor if your baby has any of these symptoms.

When not to worry

If the diarrhea is explosive. This is normal in infants.

What to do

There’s nothing you can do to stop an infant’s diarrhea; It will resolve itself, but that takes a while. As a rule, diarrhea is tenacious. Continue feeding her as usual. If the diarrhea is part of a stomach virus, it will last an average of a week before it settles. if it lasts longer, it requires attention.

If Lucy is drinking appropriately and not vomiting

Diarrhea is easier to diagnose at this age, since normal stools are usually more formed. Anything over roughly four stools a day qualifies as “the runs.”

When to worry

If diarrhea is accompanied by high fever (103°F or higher)

If there is blood in the diarrhea

If there is an unusually large amount or it is produced constantly

If Jimmy has intense belly pain

If he’s vomiting repetitively, which could increase the risk of dehydration

If Jimmy shows signs of dehydration, such as lethargy, dry mouth, or low urine production

Take him to the doctor for evaluation if he presents any of these signs.

When not to worry

If Jimmy is eating and drinking well

If his diarrhea persists many days to many weeks. In older children, diarrhea is notorious for lasting days or even weeks after a stomach virus. The intestine has to heal for normal digestion to resume.

Years ago, doctors treated diarrhea with the so-called BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These “binding” foods were supposed to make the stool harder, but in truth their effect is limited. No matter what your little patient eats, the diarrhea will follow its course until the intestine heals. Feed Jimmy normally and regularly when his appetite resumes. Allow him to replace his fluids with diluted juice or soda such as ginger ale. Anti-diarrhea medications such as Imodium are ineffective and can be dangerous for kids.

In summary, diarrhea is messy but usually not serious, and once it shows up it’s here to stay for a bit, so be patient.