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.

Common Causes:

  • 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:
    • Bananas
    • Rice
    • Apple Sauce
    • Toast
  • 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