Diarrhea is not always a sign of illness. For some children, the occasional bout may be normal, even if it contains mucus. The key is to know when diarrhea is a symptom of a problem. Factors to evaluate include the frequency and consistency of the stool. Since not all children are the same, you are the one most competent to determine when your child should see a doctor.
Bowel habits vary for each person. What is normal for one child may be unhealthy for the next. To recognize when something changes, you must know what is normal. Most children have the occasional loose bowel movement. Finding watery stool in a diaper once in a while is not unusual. Changes in bowel habits that last for a long duration are red flags. If your child usually goes to the bathroom twice a day, an increase in the texture and frequency that recurs over several days may indicate a problem.
Mucus is not unusual in the stool or a sign of diarrhea. The internal surface of the intestines is lined with this substance. It serves as a lubricant, according to Dr. Michael F. Picco of MayoClinic.com. A large increase in the amount of mucus in your child's feces may point to illness, however, especially if it is accompanied by loose stool or blood. The combination of watery stool and mucus may indicate a viral infection or medical problem with the intestines.
Pain is a more telling sign than the occasional bout of diarrhea or mucus in the stool. Many incidents of diarrhea pass with no discomfort. Pain, however, is something not to ignore. A child who has stomach cramps or complains of pain needs to see a doctor. Cramping may indicate an infection or food allergy. Call your pediatrician if your child is colicky or fussy along with the diarrhea. Talk to a doctor if the cramping and loose bowel movements occur immediately after feeding.
A combination of symptoms that include mucus and diarrhea may be the deciding factor. Diarrhea is common with an ear infection. If the baby is pulling on his ear and has loose stools, see the doctor to rule out an ear infection. Any time the diarrhea occurs while your child is taking medication or has a fever, you need to alert the pediatrician. Take note of your child's mood and appetite. This can warn you of a potential illness, as well. A child who has persistent diarrhea for longer than 24 hours needs to be checked out by a medical professional.