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:
- Diarrhea that lasts for more than seven days
- Increased frequency of motions despite over-the-counter medications
- Severe abdominal pain
- Black or tarry or bloody stools
- High fever (higher than 102°F [38.9°C])
- Severe nausea and/or vomiting
- Weakness or tiredness
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Signs of dehydration such as:
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:
- Lasts for one to two days
- Usually, no intervention is needed
- 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.
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
- In case of specific bacterial infection and severe diarrhea
- To relieve additional symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramps, and fever
- Intravenous fluids and electrolytes:
- In severe cases of dehydration, hospital admission is inevitable
Latest Digestion News
Daily Health News
Complications of diarrhea
If left untreated, diarrhea could lead to the following complications:
What causes diarrhea?
Diarrhea can be caused by different reasons including:
- Food poisoning due to Escherichia coli, salmonella, or shigella
- Anxiety (nervous diarrhea)
- Food allergies (foods that contain gluten or milk)
- Gastroenteritis (stomach flu) caused by:
- Traveler’s diarrhea (during travel in areas of poor hygiene)
- Medications such as:
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
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
Top When Should You Worry About Diarrhea Related Articles
Boost Digestive HealthUpset stomach? Some foods may be the culprits, and bad habits may be to blame. Treat your body right with these simple nutrition tips on how to deal with with diarrhea, gas, reflux, and more digestive ailments.
Can Diarrhea Be an Initial Symptom of COVID-19?COVID-19 has become a common illness that affects many people. Learn the signs of COVID-19, what causes it, how doctors diagnose it, and what you can do to treat it.
Can You Eat Eggs When You Have Diarrhea?Yes, in most individuals with diarrhea, eggs help slow down bowel movements and help the patient recover faster from diarrhea. Cooking them makes them easier to digest. So, a person can eat boiled eggs when they have diarrhea, provided they are not allergic to eggs.
Constipation Myths and FactsConstipation results in fewer bowel movements. Laxatives, home remedies, and diet changes may bring constipation relief. Change habits that constipate you and adopt lifestyle changes to benefit your intestines and bowel. Bloating and chronic constipation are relieved with the right medical treatments.
Constipation: Foods to Eat, Foods to Avoid QuizTake this quiz to find out what foods to eat, and what foods to avoid to prevent or relieve constipation.
DiarrheaDiarrhea is a change is the frequency and looseness of bowel movements. Symptoms associated with diarrhea are cramping, abdominal pain, and the sensation of rectal urgency. Causes of diarrhea include viral, bacterial, or parasite infection, gastroenteritis, food poisoning, and drugs. Absorbents and anti-motility medications are used to treat diarrhea.
What Is the Difference Between Diarrhea and Dysentery?Learn the difference between diarrhea and dysentery. Discover the symptoms and medical treatments for each.
Poop Type and ColorThe different shapes and colors of your stool can tell you something about your health.
Digestive Disorders: Why Do I Have Blood in My Stool?Do you have blood in your stool? Find out about possible causes and what steps you should take.
IBS-D (Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Diarrhea)
IBS-D or irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea refers to IBS with diarrhea. Symptoms of IBS-D include
- intestinal gas (flatulence),
- loose stools,
- frequent stools,
- abdominal pain,
- diarrhea, and
New non-FDA approved IBS tests may help diagnose IBS and IBS-D. Treatment of IBS-D is geared to toward managing symptoms with diet, medication, and lifestyle changes.
Stool Acidity TestA stool acidity test diagnoses lactose intolerance. During a stool acidity test, the patient is given lactose to drink. In people who are lactose intolerant, some or all of the lactose is not digested and absorbed in the small intestine and reaches the colon. This causes the stool to become acidic. The acidity of stools that are passed after ingestion of the lactose then is measured.
The Truth About Poop: Test Your IQEveryone does it, but no one talks about poop! What do changes in your poop mean? Take this quiz to learn about how your body functions!
What Is Good to Eat and Drink When You Have Diarrhea?Diarrhea, or loose watery stools, may be caused by stomach flu, food poisoning, radiation, chemotherapy, other medications and infections. People with diarrhea should eat small meals throughout the day instead of three big meals.
What Naturally Stops Diarrhea?Diarrhea or loose stools are often caused by a virus, bacteria or food allergies. Things that naturally stop diarrhea include the BRAT diet, probiotics, oral rehydration solution (ORS), zinc, turmeric, cinnamon and nutmeg.
What Stops Diarrhea Fast?Diarrhea or loose stools may be caused by an infection, parasites, certain medications, intestinal disease, food intolerance, hormone disorders, bowel cancer or lactose intolerance. You can stop diarrhea fast with one of two different kinds of over-the-counter medication, Imodium (loperamide) or Kaopectate or Pepto-Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate).
Why Is My Poop Green?Green stools are a common condition that affects many people. Learn the signs of green stools, what causes them, how doctors diagnose them, and what you can do to treat it.