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When should antibiotics be used for diarrhea?

Most episodes of diarrhea are acute and of short duration and do not require antibiotics. Antibiotics are not even necessary for the most common bacterial infections that cause diarrhea.

Antibiotics, however, often are used when

  • patients have more severe and persistent diarrhea,
  • patients have additional debilitating diseases such as heart failure, lung disease, and AIDS,
  • stool examination and testing discloses parasites, more serious bacterial infections (for example, Shigella), or C. difficile, and
  • traveler's diarrhea.
Return to Diarrhea

See what others are saying

Comment from: J. Young, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: February 14

I traveled out of the country and contracted gastroenteritis. I went to urgent care when I returned to the US, and they gave me a Zithromax Z-Pak (azithromycin). By Wednesday (a week after it started) it wasn't letting up and I called my GI doctor as I knew I was getting dehydrated. He prescribed Flagyl, and I was tested for C. difficile. Thank goodness, the C. diff test was negative, but the Flagyl was effective in treating whatever bug I had.

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Comment from: Prairiegardener, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: April 02

I had a colonoscopy four weeks ago and have had diarrhea ever since. I have been eating a bland diet and been taking Imodium, with only minor improvement.

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