Diarrhea is the frequent passage of unformed, watery, sometimes urgent bowel movements. It is a common symptom of the stomach flu or gastroenteritis. You may also experience a crampy pain throughout the abdomen, especially before each stool.
- Viral infections are the most common cause.
- Bacteria or bacterial toxins found in food (food poisoning)
- Medications such as antibiotics or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen or Meclomen.
- Emotional stress
- Inflammatory bowel problems
- Parasites (frequently following foreign travel)
Self Care or Treatment:
- Antibiotics are rarely helpful and may make things worse as many cause diarrhea as a side effect.
- Over-the-counter medications such as Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate may reduce the stool amount and consistency.
- Drink plenty of clean liquids (Gatorade is especially good)
- Avoid drinks that are high in sugar, as they can increase diarrhea
- When clear liquids are well tolerated, progress to constipating foods that spell BRAT:
- DO NOT use medications that slow the peristalsis of the bowel such as Lomotil or Immodium as they may slow elimination of toxins or organisms.
Risks and Dangers:
- The greatest risk is dehydration. You must keep up your fluid intake!
- When accompanied by vomiting and/or fever, chances of becoming dehydrated are increased.
- Black or bloody diarrhea may signal bleeding from the stomach or intestines. However some medications can also turn the stool black, (especially Pepto-Bismol).
- Cramping or intermittent gas-like pains are not uncommon, however, steady persistent abdominal pain is not!
When To See A Doctor:
- Presence of black or bloody stool
- Severe abdominal pain.
- Dehydration caused by inability to keep down liquids
- decreased urine output or very dark urine.
- marked thirst
- dry mouth
- sunken looking eyes sometimes with dark circles
- skin that has lots its elasticity (to check this pinch skin on the stomach or the back of the hand using all 5 fingers. When released it should spring back immediately, compare to another person’s if necessary. When skin remains tented and does not spring back normally, dehydration is indicated).
- Diarrhea lasting longer than 96 hours with prescribed treatment.
Information provided by University of Missouri-Rolla Health Center