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 of diarrhea include:
- Frequent, loose, liquid-like stools
- Stomach pain or cramping
- Stomach bloating
- 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.
Tests may include:
- Blood tests
- Stool test
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.