We want to talk about a subject most people don’t like to talk about — diarrhea. What causes it? What can we do about it? Let’s find out.
Diarrhea is loose, watery bowel movements more than three times in a day. You may also have cramps, bloating, nausea and an urgent need to have a bowel movement. Diarrhea usually lasts only a day or two. However, it can last longer depending on the cause.
If your child has diarrhea, call your health care provider. Diarrhea can be serious for children.
The National Institutes of Health says it can come from:
Sometimes the cause is unknown. If diarrhea goes away in a day or two, knowing the cause usually isn’t necessary.
Avoid caffeine drinks such as coffee and colas, high-fat and greasy foods, sweets and high-fiber foods such as citrus fruits. They can make diarrhea worse. Once the diarrhea stops, you can go back to your regular foods.
An over-the-counter medicine might help adults with diarrhea. Consider loperamide (Imodium) or bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate). Do not use these products if you have bloody diarrhea. Check with a health care provider before giving to children.
Some medical conditions and infections (bacterial or parasitic) can become worse when using these medications. They can stop your body from getting rid of the cause of diarrhea.
If you have signs of dehydration in spite of drinking plenty of fluids, you should contact your health care provider. Dehydration can be serious for children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems.
See your health care provider if you have:
If a child has diarrhea, the guidelines for seeing a health care provider are the same, except the timeline is 24 hours rather than two days. Children can become dehydrated more easily, so it’s important to get treatment quickly if your baby is 6 months or younger.
Contact your health care provider if you have a concern about diarrhea, especially if a child has the condition. Otherwise, with some simple measures and a couple of days time, the condition should pass and you’ll be back to normal.
Rotavirus diarrhea is common in children. It results from a virus. Ask your health care provider about RotaTeq and Rotarix, two vaccines that protect against rotavirus.
Traveler’s diarrhea can crop up when people visit developing countries where harmful bacteria, viruses or parasites are found in the water.
How you can prevent traveler’s diarrhea when in developing countries:
Drink bottled water, carbonated soft drinks and hot drinks such as coffee and tea.
Before you travel, ask your health care provider about steps you can take to avoid traveler’s diarrhea. Taking antibiotics before traveling can help prevent or shorten episodes of diarrhea.