frequency of bowel movements.
cramping and pain.
When To Call Your Doctor
a doctor if diarrhea persists for more than 48 hours or
is accompanied by lightheadedness, severe cramping, fever over
101° F, or blood in the stool.
a doctor if diarrhea recurs frequently.
a doctor promptly if an infant or an elderly person shows
symptoms of dehydration.
What Is It?
Acute diarrhea, the passage of frequent, loose,
or watery stools, is not a disease itself but rather a symptom
of an underlying disorder. As food passes through the digestive
system, water is normally reabsorbed through the wall of the
large intestine. Diarrheaand, at times, dehydrationresults
when fluid is not reabsorbed but remains in and is expelled with
the fecal matter. Although diarrhea usually subsides without
treatment within two or three days, any resulting dehydration
is serious (particularly among infants and the elderly) and needs
What Causes It?
from various causes, including viruses or bacteria.
to certain foods (such as citrus fruits or beans) in some people.
of artificial sweeteners, such as sorbitol, xylitol, and mannitol,
which are found in diet foods, chewing gum, and other products.
including antihypertensives, drugs to combat heart disease, over-the-counter
antacids containing magnesium, and certain antibiotics.
diseases such as traveler's diarrhea, typhoid fever, amoebic
dysentery, and bacillary dysentery (shigellosis).
Do not eat
food that you suspect has spoiled.
to which you are sensitive.
abroad, drink only bottled or boiled water or other bottled beverages.
Eat cooked foods and fruit you can peel yourself. Local water
or raw foods may contain bacteria that can cause diarrhea.
of coping with emotional stress, and try to avoid stressful situations.
be self-diagnosed by the observation of characteristic symptoms.
stool analysis may be warranted in cases of persistent diarrhea.
How To Treat It
(especially important for the elderly and young children) by
drinking a solution of one teaspoon of salt and four teaspoons
of sugar in one quart of water. Measure accurately: Too much
salt may worsen dehydration. Drink one pint of solution each
hour while diarrhea lasts.
Do not take
over-the-counter antidiarrheal medications for the first few
hours (the diarrhea may be ridding your body of infectious agents
or irritants). If work or other obligations necessitate the use
of an antidiarrheal medication, use one containing loperamide
(such as Imodium A-D) or bismuth subsalicylate (such as Pepto-Bismol).
Limit (or avoid)
milk products, alcohol, and foods rich in fiber during recovery.
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