Diarrhea is the condition of having frequent bowel movements, often with a sense of urgency and cramping. It usually involves watery or pasty consistency stools. When nausea or vomiting are also present, the condition is called gastroenteritis or "stomach flu."

Certain intestinal viruses, bacteria or parasites cause most cases. Often the condition will resolve in a few days on its own. Initial care is aimed at controlling the symptoms and avoiding dehydration, especially in children or debilitated adults.

Some causes of diarrhea have a specific treatment. Usually these are cases where the illness is prolonged or the patient has a fever or blood in the stool. Sometimes persistent painful diarrhea can be a sign of inflammation of the colon (called colitis), and require specialized care. Since there are so many causes, it is important that you try to give a complete and accurate history of your illness, and to follow the instructions provided by the urgent care staff.

Home Care for Diarrhea

  • Drink plenty of liquids to keep up with any fluid loss. Avoid salty broth or high sugar drinks or juices. These measures are very important to prevent dehydration or electrolyte problems, especially in children. (Electrolytes are the dissolved salts such as sodium and potassium in body water.)

  • Maintaining good nutrition is important since many causes of diarrhea impair the absorption of food. You may try the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast), or low residue foods such as crackers, baked potatoes, noodles, sugar cookies or even low-fat milk products. Avoid spicy, greasy or high fat foods.

  • Medications are rarely necessary with diarrhea, particularly in children. If desired, over-the-counter remedies such as Imodium or Pepto Bismol are generally safe for short-term adult use. Take any diarrhea remedy only as directed, and discontinue use if cramping or fever occurs.

  • Many causes of diarrhea are contagious, so maintain proper bathroom and kitchen hygiene.

  • Contact your personal physician if you are not improving as expected, or if you have a relapse or recurrence of illness. Often these signs, or fever, blood or mucous in the diarrhea indicate the need for specific tests, such an analysis or culture of a stool sample.


Call or Return If Any of the Following Occur:

  • Children or infants lose attentiveness or desire to drink.

  • Feeling faint or lightheaded when standing up

  • Increasing or severe abdominal pain

  • Blood or mucous in the stool

  • Chills or fever over 100.4° F

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