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The Basics of Diarrhea

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
  • Headaches
  • Dry skin
  • Irritability
  • Confusion

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.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on August 28, 2014
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