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Welcome to the Diarrhea Health Channel by eMedTV. Diarrhea is a temporary condition that causes a person to have loose, watery stools. People with diarrhea may pass more than a quart of stool a day. The average adult has a bout of diarrhea about four times a year. Although diarrhea usually lasts a day or two and goes away on its own without any special treatment, prolonged diarrhea can be the sign of a serious medical problem. The dehydration that comes with diarrhea can be serious -- especially when it affects children or the elderly.
What Causes Diarrhea?
Diarrhea may be caused by a temporary problem, such as an infection, or a chronic problem, like an intestinal disease. Common causes of diarrhea include infections, food intolerances, reactions to medications, and travel to underdeveloped countries. Other diarrhea causes can include intestinal diseases and having certain surgeries, such as stomach surgery or removal of the gallbladder. Parasites can also cause diarrhea.
What Are the Symptoms of Diarrhea?
Diarrhea symptoms can include cramp-like abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and an urgent need to use the bathroom. These symptoms are in addition to the loose, watery stools that are characteristic of diarrhea. Other diarrhea symptoms (such as thirst and dry skin) are related to the dehydration diarrhea can cause. You should see a doctor if you've had diarrhea for 3 days or more.
How Does Diarrhea Affect Children?
Diarrhea can be dangerous in newborns and infants. In small children, severe diarrhea lasting just a day or two can lead to dehydration. Because a child can die from dehydration within a few days, the main treatment for diarrhea in children is rehydration.
Infection with the rotavirus is the most common cause of acute childhood diarrhea. Rotavirus diarrhea usually resolves in 3 to 9 days.
Take your child to the doctor if any of the following symptoms appear:
- Stools containing blood or pus, or black stools
- Temperature above 101.4 degrees Fahrenheit
- No improvement after 24 hours
- Signs of dehydration.
How Is Diarrhea Treated?
Often, diarrhea goes away on its own. Diarrhea treatment, in many cases, consists of replacing lost fluids and electrolytes. However, if the diarrhea is caused by bacteria or a parasite, antibiotic therapy is usually required as well. When recovering from diarrhea, it is wise to stay away from greasy, sugary, and high-fiber foods.
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