The immediate treatment goal for all diarrheal illnesses is to replace fluids and electrolytes (salt and minerals) that were lost by diarrhea, vomiting, or fever. They can be given by mouth or intravenously, if the child is severely dehydrated. Infants and small children should never be rehydrated with water alone because it does not contain enough sodium, potassium, or other important nutrients.

Depending on the amount of fluid loss and the severity of vomiting and diarrhea, the child may need to eat a milder diet for a day or two, together with special drinks to replace body fluids quickly.

For most diarrheal illnesses caused by bacteria and viruses, antibiotics or antiviral medications are not prescribed because most children recover on their own.

In very young children or in those with weakened immune systems, however, antibiotics are sometimes given to prevent a bacterial infection from spreading throughout the body.

Most parasitic infections are treated with antiparasitic medicines.

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