The Basics of Diarrhea
How Is Diarrhea Treated?
If you have a mild case of diarrhea, you can just let it run its course, or you can treat it with an over-the-counter medicine. Common brand names include Pepto-Bismol, Imodium A-D, and Kaopectate, which are available as liquids or tablets. Follow the instructions on the package.
In addition, you should drink at least six 8-ounce glasses of fluid per day. Choose fruit juice without pulp, broth, or soda (without caffeine). Chicken broth (without the fat), tea with honey, and sports drinks are also good choices. Instead of drinking liquids with your meals, drink liquids between meals. Drink small amounts of fluids frequently.
How Can I Relieve Discomfort in the Rectal Area?
If your rectal area becomes sore because of frequent bowel movements, or if you experience itching, burning, or pain during bowel movements:
- Try warm baths. Afterwards, pat the area dry (do not rub) with a clean, soft towel.
- Apply a hemorrhoid cream or white petroleum jelly to the anus.
Can Diarrhea Harm My Health?
Yes. Ongoing diarrhea causes the body to lose large amounts of water and nutrients. If you have watery stools more than three times a day and you are not drinking enough fluids, you could become dehydrated, which can cause serious complications if not treated.
Notify your doctor if you have ongoing diarrhea and are experiencing any of the following signs of dehydration:
- Dark urine
- Small amount of urine
- Rapid heart rate
- Dry skin
Signs of dehydration in young children include:
Dry mouth and tongue
- Sunken eyes or cheeks
- No or decreased tear production
- Decreased number of wet diapers
- Irritability or listlessness
- Skin that stays pinched instead of flattening out after being pinched
When Should I Call My Doctor About Diarrhea?
Some cases of diarrhea require medical attention. Diarrhea can quickly deplete the body's supply of water and electrolytes (such as sodium and potassium) that tissues need to function. People who are very young, old, or sick may have difficulty replacing lost fluids. Also, when diarrhea lasts for several weeks or contains blood, a serious illness may be the cause. In these cases, you should contact your doctor immediately.