Diarrhea

You've probably had diarrhea before – frequent loose, liquid-like stools. Usually, diarrhea doesn't mean you have a medical problem. However, if diarrhea lasts for weeks, you might have a serious condition.

You Are at Risk for Diarrhea if You:

  • Had food or water contaminated with bacteria or parasites
  • Have a virus
  • Take a medication that causes diarrhea, including antibiotics
  • Have had a surgery in your abdominal area
  • Have difficulty digesting the natural sugar fructose
  • Have difficulty digesting lactose in dairy products
  • Have a sensitivity to artificial sweeteners
  • Have a condition including irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis

Symptoms

Symptoms of diarrhea include:

  • Frequent, loose, liquid-like stools
  • Stomach pain or cramping
  • Stomach bloating
  • Fever
  • Blood in your stool

If your diarrhea lasts more than two days, your pain is severe, you have bloody or black stools, you are dehydrated or you have a fever higher than 102° F (39° C), contact your doctor.

Diarrhea can be a bigger problem for children because they can become dehydrated more quickly. Contact your doctor if a child's diarrhea lasts longer than 24 hours or is accompanied by a fever higher than 102° F (39° C), has bloody or black stools, is unusually sleepy, hasn't urinated for three hours, appears to be dehydrated or cries without producing tears.

Diagnosis

Tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Stool test

Treatment

You usually don't need medical treatment for diarrhea. Your doctor may recommend:

  • Changing the medications you normally take
  • Taking antibiotic medication
  • Giving you intravenous fluids if you are dehydrated

Our gastroenterology specialists are experienced in treating every colorectal condition, including diarrhea.

How to Prevent Diarrhea

  • Wash your hands when preparing food, after using the bathroom or changing diapers, after sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose. Use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol when you can't wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Store food properly. Refrigerate it if you don't serve it right away after cooking it.
  • Thaw food you are going to cook in the refrigerator, not left out on a counter.
  • Clean food preparation areas often.
  • When traveling to some countries, be careful drinking water or beverages with ice. Use bottled water even for tooth brushing.
  • When traveling to some countries, avoid raw or undercooked foods.

Find an Aurora Health Care GI Specialist