Diarrhoea describes bowel movements that are runny or watery, and happen 3 or more times in a day. Diarrhoea is very common. Most adolescents and adults have diarrhoea about 4 times a year. Just about everyone has it at some point.
Diarrhoea can be caused by:
- Bacteria that grow in food or water
- Side effects from some medicines
- Problems digesting certain types of food
- Diseases that can harm your digestive system
Yes. Here are some things you can try at home:
- Drink a lot of liquids that have water, salt, and sugar. Like water mixed with juice, flavored soda, and soup broth. Your urine will be light yellow or almost clear, If you are drinking enough fluids.
- Try to eat a little food. Like potatoes, noodles, rice, oatmeal, crackers, bananas, soup, and boiled vegetables. Salty foods also help.
See your doctor if:
- You have more than 6 runny bowel movements in 24 hours
- You have blood in your intestine
- You have a fever higher than 101.3ºF (38.5ºC) that does not go away after a day
- You have severe belly pain
- You are 70 or older
- Your body has lost too much water. This is called “dehydration.” Signs include:
- Lots of diarrhoea that is very watery
- Feeling very tired
- Dry mouth or tongue
- Muscle cramps
- Very yellow urine, or not needing to urinate for more than 5 hours
Many people do not need to have tests. But your doctor maydo tests to check if you are dehydrated or to find out what is causing your diarrhoea. Your doctor might do:
- Blood tests
- Tests on a sample of your bowel movements
That depends on what is causing your diarrhoea. You might not need any treatment. If you do, your doctor might recommend the following:
- Fluids through an “IV” – An IV is a thin tube that directly goes into your vein. People with a lot of diarrhoea might need IV fluids to treat or prevent dehydration.
- Stopping some of your medicines
- Changing the foods, you eat
- Antibiotics – These medicines treat bacterial infections. Most people do not need antibiotics, even if they have a bacterial infection. If you are very sick with fever and blood in your bowel movements, your doctor might prescribe antibiotics to help you get better faster.
- Medicines that ease diarrhoea – These medicines include loperamide (brand name: Imodium), diphenoxylate-atropine (brand name: Lomotil), and bismuth subsalicylate (brand names: Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate). You should not take loperamide or diphenoxylate-atropine if you have got a fever or blood in your stool. Also, too much intake of loperamide has led to serious heart problems in some people. If you have health problems or already take other medicines, talk to your doctor before trying loperamide. For all of these medicines, it’s important to not take more than the label tells you to.
You can reduce your chances of getting and spreading diarrhoea by:
- Wash your hands after changing diapers, cooking, eating, going to the bathroom, taking out the trash, touching animals and blowing your nose.
- Stay home from work or school until you get rid of diarrhoea.
- Paying attention to food safety. Tips include:
- Not drinking unpasteurized milk or foods made from it
- Washing fruits and vegetables well before eating
- Keeping the refrigerator colder than 40ºF and the freezer below 0ºF
- Cooking meat and seafood until well done
- Cooking eggs until the yolk is firm
- Washing hands, knives, and cutting boards after they touch raw food