Most cases of diarrhea are caused by bacteria or viruses and typically go away on its own within 2-3 days. Diarrhea can be managed using home remedies most of the time but it is also vital to know when to seek medical attention for cases that are unusual or severe.
Increased intake of fluids
For mild diarrhea, it is recommended to drink water, milk, juice or sports drink. Avoid soft drinks, coffee or juices that are not 100% juice. As for severe diarrhea, oral rehydration salts should be used and readily available over-the-counter at pharmacies.
Young children and infants must be given pediatric rehydration drinks. Breastfed infants should continue to breastfeed. If allergic to additives such as flavorings or food coloring present in commercial rehydration drinks, you can create a homemade oral rehydration drink using sugar, salt and water.
Easy to digest foods
The individual should avoid fried, greasy, sugary or spicy foods. Complex carbohydrates, fresh fruits, yogurt, lean meats and vegetables should be given. Once the diarrhea ends, the individual can start eating a normal diet again.
It is recommended to eat yogurt that contains live cultures or simply take over-the-counter probiotic supplements. Probiotics are good bacteria the help with the digestion of food as well as keeping the gut healthy. Once probiotics are taken, the diarrhea becomes less severe or the duration is shortened.
Avoid using anti-diarrhea medications
It is not recommended to take anti-diarrheal medications unless prescribed by the doctor. It is important to note that diarrhea helps eliminate the body of whatever is making it sick. The use of anti-diarrheal medications will stop this action.
When to seek medical care
Most cases of diarrhea can be managed at home but oftentimes it can be a symptom of an underlying health issue and not just a virus that will come and go. Some causes of diarrhea that persist for weeks or months might be due to food intolerance or allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease. In addition, there are also emergency conditions that can cause diarrhea.
When to seek medical attention for adults
- Signs of dehydration such as dizziness, dry mouth or tongue, dark urine or lethargy
- Fever above 101 degrees F
- Bloody, black or oily-looking stool
- Diarrhea accompanied by hives or symptoms of a severe food allergy
- Severe abdominal pain that does not improve after bowel movement
When to seek medical care for infants and young children
It is important to note that young children and infants below 3 years old face a high risk for dehydration quickly. If the following symptoms are present, it is best to seek medical care right away.
- Signs of dehydration such as sunken eyes, lack of tears when crying and no wet diapers for more than 3 hours
- Fever above 100.4 degrees F
- Black, bloody or oily-looking stool
- Diarrhea with hives or other symptoms of a severe food allergy
- Severe abdominal pain