Skip to content

Mild, Moderate, or Severe Diarrhea

Font Size

Topic Overview

Diarrhea is described as an increase in the frequency of bowel movements or a decrease in the consistency of stools that causes the discharge of watery, loose stools. The severity of diarrhea is determined by the size and number of stools passed within a period of time.

  • Severe diarrhea means having more than 10 loose, watery stools in a single day (24 hours).
  • Moderate diarrhea means having more than a few but not more than 10 diarrhea stools in a day.
  • Mild diarrhea means having a few diarrhea stools in a day.

Severe diarrhea has many causes. Stomach flu (gastroenteritis) or food poisoning may cause severe diarrhea. Drinking untreated water that contains the Giardia lamblia parasite can cause diarrhea that develops 1 to 4 weeks later.

Recommended Related to Digestive Disorders

Top Digestive Health Stories of 2008: Readers' Choice

Your stomach. You can’t live without it, but why does it cause you so much trouble? Readers who wanted to know made this the top story of 2008. Here are the other topics included among the 10 most viewed digestive stories on WebMD for 2008. 9 Surprising Facts About Your Stomach Burps, Gas, Growling: Managing Embarrassing Conditions Top 10 Heartburn-Causing Foods Heartburn: Foods to Avoid Yogurt Maker Sued Over Health Claims ...

Read the Top Digestive Health Stories of 2008: Readers' Choice article > >

Severe diarrhea increases your risk of dehydration by causing your body to lose large amounts of fluid quickly. Be sure to increase your intake of fluids, such as water or a rehydration drink, and to watch for symptoms of dehydration.

Persistent diarrhea can have many causes, including dietary changes, stress, irritable bowel syndrome, and certain medicines. Occasionally, persistent diarrhea can be a symptom of a more serious condition, such as a chronic infection, inflammatory bowel disease, a malabsorption syndrome, or colorectal cancer.

1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 21, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Mild, Moderate, or Severe Diarrhea Topics

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

sore foot
3 warning signs.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
Epinephrine Injection using Auto-Injector Syringe
Life-threatening triggers.
disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
psoriasis
What it looks like.
checking blood sugar
Symptoms and treatment.
man behind computer screen
10 possible causes.
Woman with itchy watery eyes
Common triggers.
man screaming
Making sense of symptoms.
human liver
What puts you at risk?
caregiver with parent
10 tips for daily life.
two male hands
Understanding RA.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.