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Diarrhea

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Introduction

Diarrhea is a frequent need to move your bowels, which is usually watery and loose. It may last for a few days, and the situation mostly resolves itself without any treatment.

Diarrhea could be acute or chronic. While acute Diarrhea does not last for more than two days, chronic Diarrhea may persist for at least four weeks. You may suffer from chronic Diarrhea due to a viral infection or food poisoning.

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What are the Causes of Diarrhea?

Various conditions could result in Diarrhea some of the most common are:

  • ● Allergy to certain food items
  • ● Intolerance to food components like lactose
  • ● Viral or bacterial infections
  • ● Parasitic infections
  • ● Side effects of a medicine
  • ● Surgery of the gallbladder
  • ● Rotavirus (common in children)

Chronic Diarrhea could be a sign of something more serious like an inflammatory bowel disease or a functional bowel disorder.

What are the Symptoms of Diarrhea?

You may experience not one but a combination of the following symptoms of Diarrhea. The cause depends on the symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms of diarrhea. You should immediately consult a doctor or physician if you experience any one of them:

  • ● Nausea
  • ● Abdominal pain
  • ● Cramps
  • ● Bloating
  • ● Dehydration
  • ● Fever
  • ● Stools with a bloody discharge
  • ● An unusual need to pass stool
  • ● An abnormal volume of stool

Dehydration is one of the major effects of Diarrhea. Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it takes in, thus affecting normal functioning. When diarrhea is not treated immediately, you may experience fatigue, an increased heart rate, headache, decreased urination, and a dry mouth. You should seek medical help immediately if this is the case.

Diarrhea is a common condition in young people, especially babies. It can lead to severe dehydration and weakness in infants in just a day. Parents are advised to seek emergency medical care if they notice one or more of the following symptoms in their child:

  • ● Decreased urination
  • ● A dry mouth
  • ● Headache
  • ● Fatigue
  • ● Tear deprivation while crying
  • ● Dry skin
  • ● Sunken eyes
  • ● Sunken fontanel
  • ● Sleepiness
  • ● Irritability

The following are red flags that indicate seeking immediate medical treatment in infants:

  • ● Continuous diarrhea for more than 24 hours.
  • ● A fever of 102°F (39°C) or higher.
  • ● Passing of black and tarry stools that contain traces of blood and/or pus.

How is Diarrhea Diagnosed?

A doctor or a medical practitioner performs a physical exam and considers the patient’s medical history before determining the cause of diarrhea. In extreme cases, a doctor may request you to give your urine and blood samples for lab tests along with these additional tests:

  • A fasting test: To determine if you are food intolerant or allergic.
  • An imaging test: To check for inflammation and structural abnormalities of the intestine.
  • A stool culture: To determine the presence of bacteria, parasites, or signs of disease.
  • A colonoscopy: To check the entire colon for signs of intestinal disease in cases of severe chronic Diarrhea.
  • A sigmoidoscopy: To check the rectum and lower colon for signs of intestinal disease in cases of severe chronic Diarrhea.

How is Diarrhea Treated?

As dehydration is a major effect of Diarrhea, the treatment requires fluid replacement in most cases. Doctors will advise you to regularly drink lots of water or electrolyte replacement beverages, such as sports or energy drinks.

In severe cases, fluids may be pumped into your body through intravenous therapy, a medical technique that pushes liquids directly into a patient’s veins. The intravenous route of administration is commonly used for rehydration or to provide nutrition to those who cannot consume food or water orally.

However, if the doctor diagnoses a bacterial infection as the cause of Diarrhea, you may have to complete a dose of prescription antibiotics.

A doctor decides the course of treatment based on the following conditions:

  • ● The severity and frequency of Diarrhea and related conditions of the patient.
  • ● The degree of dehydration.
  • ● Current health conditions, age, and medical history.
  • ● Your level of tolerance to different medical procedures.
  • ● The expectation of recovery in a patient.

How is Diarrhea Prevented?

Although Diarrhea can be treated and cured in most cases, prevention is always better than cure. You can avoid diarrhea caused by food poisoning by ensuring that the food you consume is prepared in a clean and regularly disinfected environment and raw foods are thoroughly washed before being cooked.

Also, avoid consuming leftovers and refrigerated food, instead serve meals immediately after they are prepared to prevent food poisoning.

Another common type of Diarrhea experienced by most people is known as traveller’s Diarrhea. Medical experts say you can prevent this by following these steps, especially while traveling to a developing nation:

  • ● A doctor may prescribe an antibiotic before the travels, which can significantly reduce the risk of developing this sickness.
  • ● Avoiding tap water, ice cubes, and fruits/vegetables washed with tap water.
  • ● Drinking bottled water and eating cooked food also prevent food poisoning and Diarrhea.

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FAQ's

What is Traveller’s Diarrhea?

It is a condition you might experience due to exposure to bacteria or parasites when you travel to places with poor hygiene.

Can Frequent Diarrhea be a Sign of a Serious Disorder?

Severe and regular Diarrhea could indicate a functional bowel disorder or an intestinal disease.

What Foods can I have when I am Suffering from Diarrhea?

An easy and widely used acronym BRAT can be followed. It stands for Bananas, Rice, Apples, and Toast.

What Foods should I Avoid if I am Suffering from Diarrhea?

You should avoid foods that are heavy to breakdown and digest. Some of them are:

  • ● Dairy products
  • ● Processed foods
  • ● Spicy food
  • ● Raw vegetables
  • ● Onions
  • ● Fried and greasy food

How to Prevent the Spread of Diarrhea?

Diarrhea caused by a viral or bacterial infection can spread to other people. Following hygienic practices like washing hands with soap or using a sanitizer can prevent the spread.

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