What is Diarrhea?
Definition of Diarrhea: A term for loose, watery stools. Most cases of diarrhea clear up without treatment. Diarrhea that continues longer than two days can be a sign of a serious problem and cause dehydration. Below is a brief overview of the causes, symptoms and treatments, plus links to more information.
What Causes Diarrhea? Viruses, bacteria, parasites and reactions to medication can cause diarrhea. Food intolerances to lactose, a sugar in milk, and artificial sweeteners can also cause diarrhea. Frequent diarrhea is a sign of some intestinal diseases and bowel disorders.
Is Diarrhea Contagious?Yes, if it's caused by a virus, parasite or bacteria. These pathogens can spread through consuming contaminated water or food, and by touching a contaminated surface before eating or touching your face. Washing your hands well after using the bathroom helps stem the spread of diarrhea.
Signs & Symptoms: Seek medical care if high fevers, severe stomach pain, blood in the stools or signs of dehydration – dark urine, dizziness, dry skin – accompany your diarrhea. Typical diarrhea symptoms include:
- Watery stools
- Stomach cramps
- Sudden urge to use the bathroom
Treatment & Remedies: Stay hydrated. Clear liquids, fruit juices, broth and specialized drinks for diarrhea will help replenish fluids and electrolytes (essential minerals) lost during diarrhea. Otherwise, your doctor will try to treat the underlying condition causing ongoing or acute diarrhea.
- Avoid fatty foods, caffeine and alcohol to reduce symptoms as you recover.
- In some cases diarrhea can be treated with antibiotics.
- Over the counter medications may help, but they may also prolong diarrhea if it is caused by a bacteria or a parasite, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Sources and More Information:
- Diarrhea: Details from MyHealthNewsDaily
- Related Information from the Mayo Clinic
- Related Information from the National Institutes of Health
- Related Information from the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
This information is not meant to provide specific medical advice. It is for educational purposes only. We recommend you consult a qualified health care professional for diagnoses and treatment advice, and call 9-1-1 in emergencies.
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