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Chronic Diarrhea in Children

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Definition & Facts

Chronic diarrhea is passing loose, watery stools three or more times a day for at least 4 weeks. The diarrhea may be continual, or it may come and go. Chronic diarrhea can affect children of any age.

Child sitting on a toilet

Symptoms & Causes

Children with chronic diarrhea pass loose, watery stools three or more times a day for at least 4 weeks. They may also have other symptoms. Causes include infections of the digestive tract, food allergies and intolerances, and digestive tract disorders.


To find the cause of a child’s chronic diarrhea, doctors may use information from the child’s medical and family history, a physical exam, or tests. Tests may include stool tests, blood tests, hydrogen breath tests, and fasting tests.


How doctors treat chronic diarrhea in children depends on the cause. A doctor may prescribe medicines or recommend changes in what your child eats or drinks. In rare cases, a doctor may perform surgery to treat the cause of your child’s chronic diarrhea.

Eating, Diet, & Nutrition

Eating, diet, and nutrition play a major role in chronic diarrhea in children. Depending on the cause, changing what your child eats can prevent, reduce, or stop chronic diarrhea. Your child’s doctor or a dietitian can recommend a healthy eating plan.

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support research into many diseases and conditions.

Your Digestive System & How it Works

The digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract-also called the digestive tract-and the liver, pancreas, and the gallbladder. The GI tract is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus.

Related Research

Last Reviewed February 2017

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Mark Donowitz, M.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine