Everyone gets diarrhea at least once in their lives. But how do you determine whether you should wait it out or go to the doctor if you have symptoms?
Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 17 Dec 2021.
When To Seek Help If You Have Diarrhea
Diarrhoea is the frequent passing of loose, watery and unformed faeces. Acute diarrhoea is the sudden onset of three or more loose stools per day, lasting less than 14 days. The most common cause of acute diarrhoea is an infection of the intestines, such as gastroenteritis or food poisoning.
Diarrhoea makes itself known by forcing you to go to the toilet many times in a short period. When you pass loose, watery faeces two or more times a day, you have diarrhoea.
You may also want to consider:
- Pain in the abdomen
Diarrhoea typically clears up on its own within 48 hours, even without medication. In the interim, the essential things you can do are:
- Maintain hydration until the diarrhoea subsides.
- Foods that aggravate your symptoms should be avoided.
It may occur soon after diarrhoea, particularly if the symptoms persist or if you vomit.
Make fluids a high priority as soon as you know diarrhoea is on the way.
Drink lots of water if you have diarrhoea. Additionally, drink drinks that will help you maintain your sodium and electrolyte levels. Here are several examples:
- Fruits and fruit juices
When Symptoms Get Serious
The majority of instances of diarrhoea are just minor nuisance. However, they may sometimes signal a severe condition.
If your child has had diarrhoea for more than 24 hours, see your doctor. Make an appointment if you have had it for more than three days.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
- Abdominal or rectal discomfort that is severe
- You have blood in your stool.
- Stools that are black and tarry.
- Fever that is relatively high (greater than 37.5C)
- Dehydration symptoms
These may be indicators of things like:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Colon cancer
Also, if you have cancer or have just had treatment for it, tell your doctor about your diarrhoea.
When Diarrhea Won't Go Away
If your diarrhoea persists beyond four weeks, you have chronic diarrhoea.
Your doctor will need to know about your symptoms and medical history to determine the reason. If you can tell them the following, you'll get the most out of your appointment:
- How long have you been suffering from diarrhoea?
- Whether your diarrhoea is intermittent or persistent,
- If you believe that particular meals and circumstances improve or aggravate your condition,
- If your faeces is red, greasy, fatty, or watery, it's time to see a doctor.
- Other symptoms you're experiencing and how long you've been experiencing them
- If you have a history of persistent diarrhoea in your family
- Places you've recently visited
- Unusual meals you've recently experimented with
- You're using any medications or supplements, right?
- If you've dropped a significant amount of weight
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: “Digestive Diseases: Diarrhea.”
- Mayo Clinic: “Symptom Checker: Diarrhea.”
- The American College of Gastroenterology: “Diarrheal Diseases.”
- CDC: “Foodborne Illness.”
- UPMC Health A to Z: “Diarrhea."