Overview

Diarrhea, which is defined as loose, watery stools, happens to everyone on occasion. The key to most GI conditions is to know what is normal and to pay attention when that normal changes. Occasional diarrhea from a virus, bacterial infection, or a medication, normally clears up in a few days with simple over the counter medications and proper hydration. If, however, diarrhea becomes chronic, it should be addressed by a gastroenterologist.

Causes

There are a wide variety of causes of diarrhea, including bacterial infections introduced through contaminated food or water, viral infections that spread from person to person, parasites that enter the body through food or water, food intolerances, reaction to medications, functional bowel disorders, and intestinal diseases.

Symptoms

The most common symptom of diarrhea is three or more loose, watery stools in a day. Additional symptoms will depend on the causes of the diarrhea, like a potential fever associated with a virus.

Seek Professional Help

Adults should seek medical treatment if there are signs of dehydration, diarrhea lasting longer than two days, severe pain in the abdomen, a fever of 102 or higher, blood or pus in the stool, or the stool appears black and tarry.

Children are much more susceptible to dehydration. Please follow your pediatrician's advice for treatment of diarrhea in children. Likewise, over the counter treatments for diarrhea should never be given to infants or children without a medical professional's supervision.

Treatment

The key to treatment is to stay hydrated, eat soft and bland foods, and avoid caffeine. If the diarrhea is not temporary, treatment will depend on the underlying cause.