Skip to content

    When you have diarrhea, your bowel movements (or stools) are loose and watery. It’s very common and usually not serious.

    The Basics: Diarrhea Tired of running to the bathroom? Here’s how to ease that troublesome diarrhea. 69

    [MUSIC PLAYING]

    NIH; American College of Gastroenterology; KidsHealth; AudioJungle /delivery/1e/3a/1e3afa85-105c-4f0b-a443-af877a1f4242/basics-diarrhea_,400k,4500k,2500k,1000k,750k,.mp4 7/19/2016 12:00:00 AM 650 350 /webmd/consumer_assets/site_images/article_thumbnails/video/basics_diarrhea_video/650x350_basics_diarrhea_video.jpg 091e9c5e8143b846

    Many people get diarrhea once or twice each year. It normally lasts 2 to 3 days, and you can treat it with over-the-counter medicines. Some people get it more often as part of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other conditions.

    Symptoms

    You may have:

    • Bloating in your belly
    • Cramps
    • Thin or loose stools
    • Watery stools
    • An urgent feeling that you need to have a bowel movement
    • Nausea and throwing up

    More serious symptoms include:

    If you have watery stools more than three times a day and you're not drinking enough fluids, you could become dehydrated. That can cause serious complications if it's not treated.

    Causes

    Usually, diarrhea is caused by a virus that infects your gut. Some people call it "intestinal flu" or "stomach flu."

    Other causes include:

    Diarrhea may also follow constipation, especially for people who have irritable bowel syndrome.

    When Should I Call My Doctor?

    Call your doctor immediately if you have:

    • Blood in your diarrhea or black, tarry stools
    • A fever that is high (above 101 F) or that lasts more than 24 hours
    • Diarrhea lasting longer than 2 days
    • Nausea or throwing up that prevents you from drinking liquids to replace lost fluids
    • Severe pain in your abdomen or rectum
    • Diarrhea after coming back from a foreign country

    Also, call your doctor right away if you have diarrhea and any of these signs of dehydration:

    • Dark urine
    • Smaller than usual amounts of urine or fewer wet diapers than usual in a child
    • Rapid heart rate
    • Headaches
    • Dry skin
    • Irritability
    • Confusion