causes of diarrhea
Diarrhea is typically a symptom that resolves itself within 48 hours; however, here is when it may indicate a serious health issue.

The majority of the time, diarrhea can be a temporary symptom that resolves on its own within 48 hours, but sometimes, it can last long and signal a serious health issue

Consult a healthcare professional in case of the following:

For infants and toddlers, if diarrhea lasts for more than 24 hours or six or more stools in a day, medical intervention is necessary.

What is diarrhea?

Diarrhea is the passage of loose, watery stools, with or without pain, for two or more times a day.

It is a common condition that affects a large number of people, both adults and children, and usually is of no concern other than distress and inconvenience.

Diarrhea can be of two types:

  • Acute:
    • Lasts for one to two days
    • Usually, no intervention is needed
  • Chronic:
    • Lasts for four weeks or more
    • Diarrhea on and off for a long period

Symptoms of diarrhea

Depending on the cause, along with diarrhea, you may have additional symptoms such as:

How is diarrhea diagnosed?

Diarrhea is diagnosed in the following ways:

How to prevent diarrhea

You can take the following measures to prevent diarrhea:

  • Maintain hygiene by washing hands with soap and water after visiting the washroom and before eating or cooking food.
  • Disinfect the toilet seat and handles after each episode of diarrhea.
  • Maintain food hygiene by washing kitchen surfaces and utensils regularly.
  • Avoid intake of raw or undercooked foods.
  • Always cook food thoroughly.
  • Avoid unpasteurized milk and dairy products.
  • Check seals of water bottles and canned foods.
  • Do not use expired food cans.
  • Vaccinate children against rotavirus.

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How is diarrhea treated?

Most cases will resolve within a week, but excessive water is lost in the stools that may lead to dehydration if not diagnosed early or left untreated.

  • Drink plenty of water to keep the body hydrated.
  • Drink fluids that contain salt and sugar.
  • Avoid heavy, oily, spicy, and processed foods.
  • Consume soft, semisolid, and bland foods.
  • Consume fruit juices, soups, and broths.
  • Use an oral rehydration solution to avoid dehydration.
  • Take rest.
  • Take over-the-counter medications such as loperamide.
  • Taking probiotics (yogurt) speeds up recovery.
  • Limit tea and coffee intake.
  • Rice water is an effective way to make stools firm and prevent dehydration.
  • Try the BRAT diet that stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast (white bread).

If the above methods do not suffice, consult a healthcare professional who may prescribe:

  • Antidiarrheal medicines:
    • Slow down muscle movements in the gut, increase water absorption make stools firmer, and reduces the frequency
  • Antibiotics:
    • In case of specific bacterial infection and severe diarrhea
  • Painkillers:
    • To relieve additional symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramps, and fever
  • Intravenous fluids and electrolytes:
    • In severe cases of dehydration, hospital admission is inevitable

Complications of diarrhea

If left untreated, diarrhea could lead to the following complications:

What causes diarrhea?

Diarrhea can be caused by different reasons including:

Short-term diarrhea

Long-term diarrhea

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Medically Reviewed on 2/10/2022
References
Image Source: iStock Images

Minesh Khatri Diarrhea Symptoms WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/diarrhea-symptoms

Diarrhea Cleveland Clinic: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4108-diarrhea

Mary Gavin Diarrhea KidsHealth: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/diarrhea.html