Dealing with Diarrhea
Diarrhea can be caused by food poisoning, bacteria, or bacterial toxins in food that you can pick up at restaurants, or eating food that has been kept too long. Gastrointestinal viruses can result in diarrhea and vomiting, but are fortunately also short-lived. Diarrhea is characterized by frequent trips to the toilet, a greater volume of loose, watery stools, and abdominal cramps.
The best way to treat diarrhea is to drink plenty of fluids, avoiding caffeine and alcohol. Try to drink four to six ounces of clear fluids every hour. Pedialyte or sports drinks are also good choices. Over-the-counter medications may help relieve the symptoms. Rest, and when you can begin eating, start with small amounts of bland food: broths, steamed vegetables, and boiled rice.
If you have HIV or AIDS, then you should contact your health care provider when diarrhea first begins. It is important not to wait until it gets worse or you become dehydrated. With a compromised immune system, you may be at higher risk for developing complications.
Seeking Medical Care
Diarrhea is very common and usually not serious. In fact, more than 90 percent of all cases of diarrhea are treated at home and do not need medical attention.
However, you should seek medical attention:
If you are unable to tolerate any food or drink
If you show signs of dehydration (dry mouth, headaches, weakness, dark urine)
If you have a high fever and significant abdominal pain
If you are elderly, or if the ill person is an infant or young child
If have serious underlying medical problems, such as diabetes, or heart, kidney, or liver disease
Diarrhea is a common side effect that people experience when taking antibiotics. Studies have shown that ingesting certain probiotics can substantially decrease incidences of antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Drinking two probiotic drinks a day is often enough too show benefits.
Go to the emergency room if you have severe diarrhea along with high fever, moderate-to-severe abdominal pain, or dehydration that cannot be managed by drinking fluids. If the diarrhea appears to contain blood (may be bright red or may look like black, thick tar), or if you are very sleepy or are acting unusual, then you need emergency care.
Diarrhea can be a symptom of underlying general diseases that are not specific to the gastrointestinal tract: diabetes, neurological diseases, liver diseases, gallbladder disease, and pancreatic disease. Diarrhea that lasts longer than a week or two needs the attention of your physician.