Loperamide (sold as Imodium AD tablets and liquid) is the most commonly used antidiarrheal, now that it is available over the counter. It acts by slowing the movement of the intestinal muscle.
Note: You should never give your child loperamide if she has a fever over 101°F or bloody stools. This drug is not recommended for children under twelve.
Kaolin-pectin, an over-the-counter drug better known as Kaopectate, binds substances in the intestines with excess water, thereby solidifying and drying diarrheal stools. This makes it appear as if your child is having less diarrhea and more formed stools, but she is actually still losing the same amount of water as she would be if untreated. It just looks different. Kaolin medications give a false sense of reassurance.
Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) is an over-the-counter drug that works by attaching to the toxin or bacteria that is causing the problem in the intestines. This deactivates the foreign substance and it loses its ability to hurt the body. This medication can turn the stools black. It is not recommended for children under two years of age.
Antibiotics can help, but only if your child's diarrhea is due to a parasitic or bacterial infection. They should be prescribed only after a stool analysis or culture confirms this.
Antidiarrheal medications that contain opiates, such as paregoric and Lomotil, are not recommended for children. Like loperamide, these drugs work by slowing down intestinal action and halting bowel movements. But these are powerful drugs that contain narcotics, and are not necessarily safe.
Your primary concern when caring for a child with diarrhea is to prevent dehydration. During the acute phase of diarrhea, when the stools are frequent and watery, make sure your child is taking in enough fluids. Give your child frequent small sips or drinks of water. To prevent vomiting, don't give her a big glass of water at any one time.
To give the intestines time to settle and heal, avoid giving your child dairy products during an episode of diarrhea and for two weeks after it is resolved.
If you are breastfeeding your child, continue nursing. Mother's milk does not create or exacerbate diarrhea. In fact, a diet comprised solely of breast milk and water can often help to resolve it. A nursing mother can also try adding an acidophilus or bifidus supplement to her diet, or taking one dose of Curing Pills (see Herbal Treatment, below) or homeopathic Arsenicum album 200x.
Children usually do not want to eat very much when they are acutely sick with diarrhea. Offer clear liquids, such as broths, diluted apple juice, and herbal teas. Avoid filling your child's stomach, so that her stomach and intestines will have time to rest and heal. An upset digestive tract is like any other injury. Do not expect it to heal overnight.