Tummy problems in toddlers
Constipation and diarrhoea are common tummy problems in toddlers. Thankfully they’re just as easy to take care of.
At a glance
Diarrhoea is often caused by mild illness but can also be due to food moving too quickly through the body
Wash hands often and practice good hygiene to stop diarrhoea from spreading
Give plenty of liquids to any little one suffering from either diarrhoea or constipation
A high fibre diet and physical activity can help the bowels keep moving
Although your toddler is growing up fast before your eyes, their digestive system is still young and getting used to what they eat. That means occasional tummy troubles, like diarrhoea and constipation, are quite normal.
Diarrhoea in toddlers
Frequent watery poo is a sign of diarrhoea and can be frustrating and uncomfortable for your toddler. In most cases, mild diarrhoea is caused by a mild viral or bacterial illness. However, there is also ‘Toddler Diarrhoea’, a common and non-contagious condition that may be brought on by the rapid transit of food through the gut.
How to deal with diarrhoea
- Give your toddler plenty to drink to prevent dehydration. Water is best but give them enough of whichever fluids they will drink
- Immediately after each bout of watery poo, try to give your toddler an extra drink of 100 – 200ml of fluid
- Avoid sugary drinks, or drinks containing artificial sweeteners like aspartame, which may make your toddler’s diarrhoea worse
- Check your child’s wee throughout the day – pale coloured wee is normal while much darker, strong smelling or cloudy wee could mean they are dehydrated
- If you are think they are becoming dehydrated, speak to your local pharmacist or GP to ask about giving your little one special rehydration drinks suitable for children
- Don’t give your toddler anti-diarrhoeal medicine unless recommended by your GP or another medical professional
How to stop the spread of diarrhoea
- Practice good hygiene – make sure everyone washes their hands thoroughly and regularly, particularly before preparing food, after going to the toilet or changing nappies. Supervise your child when they wash their hands or do it for them
- Dispose of soiled nappies and wipes safely – double bagged to prevent germs from spreading
- Don’t let your household share personal items, such as towels, flannels or face cloths. And wash them regularly at 60°C
- Keep your toddler home from nursery or childcare 48 hours after their last bout of diarrhoea – contact your nursery for their policy, which may be different
If you’re ever concerned about your toddler’s constipation, speak to your health visitor, public health nurse or GP for advice.
Constipation in toddlers
If your toddler is pooing less than once a day and complaining of a sore tummy they may be suffering from constipation. But it’s important to remember that as babies get older, they poo less often and their stools will get bigger and more solid – this is not necessarily constipation. However, if you suspect constipation, there are a few things you can do to help.
How to avoid constipation
- Make sure your toddler is eating fibre – include lots of fruits and vegetables, wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta, brown rice and wholemeal breakfast cereals in their diet
- Increase your toddlers normal fluid intake to a minimum of 3 – 4 drinks a day, water or diluted fruit juice
- Being active encourages healthy bowel movement so get your toddler up and moving
- Avoid suddenly changing your toddler’s usual milk, whether it’s formula or cows’ milk
How to deal with constipation
- A warm bath can relax your toddler so the poo may be passed more easily, and bath time play is a great distraction from pain and discomfort
- Massaging their tummy gently in a clockwise motion can often help
- Try lying your toddler on their back and moving their legs in a cycling motion to put gentle pressure on the intestine and stimulate bowel movement
- Don’t use over-the-counter constipation remedies, unless recommended by a doctor
If you’re concerned about your toddler’s constipation, speak to your health visitor, public health nurse or GP for advice. Contact your healthcare professional immediately if your toddler has dry, hard stools as well as fever, vomiting, or blood in stools.