Diarrhea

Diarrhea is frequent loose and watery bowel movements. It can cause you to feel weak and dehydrated. Dehydration can cause you to become tired and thirsty, have a dry mouth, and have decreased urination that often is dark yellow. Diarrhea is a sign of another problem, most often an infection that will not last long. In most cases, diarrhea typically lasts 2–3 days. However, it can last longer if it is a sign of something more serious. It is important to treat your diarrhea as directed by your caregive to lessen or prevent future episodes of diarrhea.

CAUSES

Some common causes include:

  • Gastrointestinal infections caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites.

  • Food poisoning or food allergies.

  • Certain medicines, such as antibiotics, chemotherapy, and laxatives.

  • Artificial sweeteners and fructose.

  • Digestive disorders.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Ensure adequate fluid intake (hydration): have 1 cup (8 oz) of fluid for each diarrhea episode. Avoid fluids that contain simple sugars or sports drinks, fruit juices, whole milk products, and sodas. Your urine should be clear or pale yellow if you are drinking enough fluids. Hydrate with an oral rehydration solution that you can purchase at pharmacies, retail stores, and online. You can prepare an oral rehydration solution at home by mixing the following ingredients together:

  • ⅓–⅔ tsp table salt.

  • ¾ tsp baking soda.

  • ⅓ tsp salt substitute containing potassium chloride.

  • 1 ⅓ tablespoons sugar.

  • 1 L (34 oz) of water.

  • Certain foods and beverages may increase the speed at which food moves through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. These foods and beverages should be avoided and include:

  • Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages.

  • High-fiber foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grain breads and cereals.

  • Foods and beverages sweetened with sugar alcohols, such as xylitol, sorbitol, and mannitol.

  • Some foods may be well tolerated and may help thicken stool including:

  • Starchy foods, such as rice, toast, pasta, low-sugar cereal, oatmeal, grits, baked potatoes, crackers, and bagels.

  • Bananas.

  • Applesauce.

  • Add probiotic-rich foods to help increase healthy bacteria in the GI tract, such as yogurt and fermented milk products.

  • Wash your hands well after each diarrhea episode.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines as directed by your caregiver.

  • Take a warm bath to relieve any burning or pain from frequent diarrhea episodes.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You are unable to keep fluids down.

  • You have persistent vomiting.

  • You have blood in your stool, or your stools are black and tarry.

  • You do not urinate in 6–8 hours, or there is only a small amount of very dark urine.

  • You have abdominal pain that increases or localizes.

  • You have weakness, dizziness, confusion, or lightheadedness.

  • You have a severe headache.

  • Your diarrhea gets worse or does not get better.

  • You have a fever or persistent symptoms for more than 2–3 days.

  • You have a fever and your symptoms suddenly get worse.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.