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What is diarrhea?

Diarrhea is where you frequently need to go to the toilet to do a loose or watery poo.

It can happen for a variety of different reasons and most people will experience it at some point in their life. As long as it only happens from time to time and doesn’t last for a very long time when you do experience it, it should be nothing to worry about.

If you find it happening a lot, or bouts last for a long while or are accompanied by other symptoms, it is a good idea to get it checked out by your doctor as it could be a sign of an underlying condition.

What are the main diarrhea symptoms?

Diarrhoea symptoms include:

  • Getting a frequent or sudden urge to go to the toilet to poo
  • Passing loose or watery poo

There can be other symptoms depending on what’s causing your diarrhoea.

Frequent or severe diarrhoea can cause dehydration since you lose a lot of water each time you go to the toilet.

What causes diarrhoea?

There are a number of causes of diarrhoea, but one of the main causes is an infection in the bowel. This could be caused by a virus, bacteria, or a parasite.

Diarrhoea can also be caused by other medications, anxiety, a food intolerance or allergy, or a long-term condition such as IBS.

If the cause isn’t obvious, your doctor might want to take a blood test or a stool sample, or do a rectal examination.

How can you treat diarrhoea?

Diarrhoea often clears up by itself after a few days. There is an effective diarrhea treatment called loperamide which can be used in the short-term. Loperamide capsules are a generic version of the branded medication Imodium and they work in a similar way.

Antibiotics can help when your diarrhoea is caused by a bacterial infection, like with traveller’s diarrhoea.

If you have severe diarrhoea, you should also be sure to drink lots of water to prevent dehydration. It might also be a good idea to take a medication like Dioralyte which will replace any salts and nutrients you may have lost through the diarrhoea.

What can you do to help prevent diarrhoea?

Diarrhoea is frequently due to an infection, so the best way to prevent it is by taking extra care with your personal hygiene. This means washing your hands thoroughly after going to the toilet and before eating or preparing food.

You should also avoid sharing towels and cutlery with other people. Make sure any soiled clothing and bed linen is washed at the highest temperature you can and separately from other items.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is diarrhea contagious?

Diarrhea is often caused by an infection, and this can be spread to others. You can minimise this risk by staying at home rather than going to work and practicing good personal hygiene.

Why do I keep getting diarrhea?

If you keep getting diarrhea you should see your GP. Recurring diarrhea can be a sign of an underlying condition.

* Please note results, timeframe and individual responses to treatments may vary from person to person. If you do need medical advice you should always speak to a doctor, pharmacist or appropriate medical professional.