Diarrhea consists of loose, watery stools, and having diarrhea means passing loose stools three or more times a day. Usually, acute diarrhea lasts one or two days, then goes away on its own.
Diarrhea lasting more than two days could indicate a more serious problem, and chronic diarrhea lasting at least four weeks could be a symptom of a chronic disease.
People of all ages can get diarrhea. Diarrhea may cause dehydration, which means the body lacks enough fluid and electrolytes to function properly. Usually, the only treatment required is to replace lost fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration.
Diarrhea symptoms may be reduced by avoiding caffeine, greasy foods, and foods that are high in fiber, sweets, and sugar substitutes.
Over-the-counter medicines (such as Imodium and Pepto-Bismol) may help stop diarrhea in adults, but these medicines should only be given to infants and children with your doctor’s guidance.
What causes diarrhea?
Diarrhea can have numerous causes, including viruses, bacterial and parasitic infections, lactose intolerance, and use of antibiotic medications. Some people may experience diarrhea after consuming too much of the sugar fructose, which is found in fruits, honey, and some beverages. Artificial sweeteners found in sugar-free food products can also cause diarrhea for people who are sensitive to these sweeteners. In addition, diarrhea can occur after a surgery or with some chronic conditions, such as ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Is diarrhea a serious problem?
Diarrhea typically goes away after a few days, but if it lasts longer than 2 weeks, you may have a chronic health condition like inflammatory bowel disease, which should be evaluated by a doctor. Diarrhea is serious if it lasts longer than a few days, is accompanied by a fever, or includes bloody or black stools or severe stomach pain. Diarrhea can also cause dehydration, which may be indicated by dark colored urine, excessive thirst, fatigue, lack of urination, and weakness. If you or your child shows these signs of dehydration, it is important to seek immediate medical care.
How is diarrhea treated?
In many cases, diarrhea will resolve on its own without treatment after a few days. You can typically manage diarrhea at home by drinking plenty of water, getting enough sodium to replace lost electrolytes, and avoiding triggering foods, such as dairy or foods that are greasy or high in fiber. You may benefit from taking a probiotic or anti-diarrheal medication. If an underlying condition like a bacterial infection causes diarrhea, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Children with diarrhea may be advised to consume a beverage like Pedialyte to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. If diarrhea is persistent, your doctor will treat the underlying health condition, such as inflammatory bowel disease, that is causing diarrhea.
- “I had stomach cramping, along with loose, watery bowel movements after taking an antibiotic for a respiratory infection.”
- “For a few days, I was having bowel movements more often than usual, and when I had to go, the need was urgent. I also noticed mucus in my stools.”
- “I developed a slight fever, accompanied by stomach pain and nausea. When I had a bowel movement, it was watery. small bump near my anus, as well as a small crack in the skin around that area.”