Childhood Gastrointestinal (GI) Medications

Digestive disorders (e.g., upset stomach, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea) are common in children. These disorders often are caused by a virus or by something the child has eaten and usually do not require medical treatment.

When a child has a minor digestive disorder, pediatricians often advise parents to offer small amounts of clear liquids (e.g., broth, ginger ale), ice chips, soft foods (e.g., gelatin), and bland foods (e.g., crackers, dry toast, rice, bananas) and make sure the child gets plenty of rest. Parents should avoid giving children over-the-counter medication to treat diarrhea or vomiting, except as directed by a qualified health care provider.

Constipation (i.e., decreased frequency of bowel movements, resulting in hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass) often occurs in young children, especially during toilet training. In many cases, conservative treatments, such as encouraging the child to use the bathroom at the same time each day, increasing fiber (e.g., whole grains, fruits, vegetables) in the child's diet, and making sure he or she gets plenty of exercise, can help reduce constipation. However, when these measures are not effective, over-the-counter or prescription stool softeners, laxatives, and enemas may be used. Medications to relieve constipation should only be used as directed by a qualified health care provider.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 27 Aug 2008

Last Modified: 08 Sep 2015