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Diarrhea,Age 12 and Older - Home Treatment

Home treatment can help you treat your diarrhea and avoid other related problems, such as dehydration.

  • Take frequent, small sips of water or a rehydration drink and small bites of salty crackers.
    • Try to increase your fluid intake to at least 1 qt (1 L) per hour for 1 to 2 hours or until diarrhea symptoms disappear.
  • Begin eating mild foods the next day or sooner, depending on how you feel.
    • Avoid spicy foods, fruits, alcohol, and caffeine until 48 hours after all symptoms have disappeared.
    • Avoid chewing gum that contains sorbitol.
    • Avoid milk for 3 days after symptoms disappear. You can eat cheese or yogurt with probiotics.

Nonprescription medicines for diarrhea

If you are pregnant, talk with your doctor before taking any medicines for diarrhea.

Nonprescription medicines may be helpful in treating your diarrhea. Follow these tips when taking a nonprescription medicine for diarrhea:

  • Use nonprescription antidiarrheal medicine if you have diarrhea for longer than 6 hours. Do not use nonprescription antidiarrheal medicines if you have bloody diarrhea, a high fever, or other signs of serious illness.
  • Read and follow all label directions on the nonprescription medicine bottle or box. Be sure to take the recommended dose.
  • Long-term use of nonprescription antidiarrheal medicine is not recommended. To avoid constipation, stop taking antidiarrheal medicines as soon as stools thicken.
  • If your child or teen gets chickenpox or flu, do not treat the symptoms with over-the-counter medicines that contain bismuth subsalicylate (such as Pepto-Bismol and Kaopectate). Subsalicylate has been linked to Reye syndrome, a rare but serious illness. If your child has taken this kind of medicine and he or she has changes in behavior with nausea and vomiting, call your doctor. These symptoms could be an early sign of Reye syndrome.

There are several types of antidiarrheal medicines: those that absorb water and thicken the stool, and those that slow intestinal spasms.

  • Thickening mixtures (such as psyllium) absorb water. This helps bulk up the stool and make it more firm.
  • Antispasmodic antidiarrheals, such as Imodium A-D and Pepto Diarrhea Control, slow intestinal spasms. Some products contain both thickening and antispasmodic ingredients.
  • Probiotics, such as Lactobacillus, are available in either pills or powder. This bacteria occurs naturally in the intestine and may help with digestion. When diarrhea is present, the number of these bacteria is reduced.

General tips

Learn how to clean up diarrhea safely. Protect your hands with gloves while cleaning up. Wash your hands after you are done cleaning up.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • Signs of dehydration develop.
  • Severe diarrhea (10 or more loose watery stools in 24 hours) develops.
  • Black or bloody stools develop.
  • A fever develops.
  • Your symptoms become more severe or more frequent.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 05, 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.
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