Diarrhea

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Overview

Diarrhea is very common: In Germany, for instance, adults get it once a year on average, and it is even more common in children. It is usually caused by viruses, the most common of which are the highly contagious norovirus and rotavirus. Infectious diarrhea can also come from bacteria such as Salmonella or Campylobacter.


In normal cases of diarrhea, you can usually just replace the fluids you lose and wait until the infection goes away. But more severe or longer lasting diarrhea needs to be treated because it can lead to the loss of dangerously high levels of fluid and salt, especially in young children and older people.

Symptoms

The infection often starts suddenly with projectile vomiting or severe diarrhea. It is considered to be diarrhea if you have more than three very loose or liquid bowel movements within 24 hours. People who have diarrhea often have stomach ache, cramps and bloating too. Diarrhea and nausea are sometimes also accompanied by fever, headache and joint pain.


Dizziness and feeling faint could be signs that your body has lost too much liquid and salts (electrolytes). If that happens, immediate medical attention is needed. Other reasons to seek medical help for diarrhea include:


No improvement after 48 hours

High fever

Blood in your poo (it has red blood in it or is black)

Mucous coating on the poo

Severe pain

Abdominal cramps or pain.

Bloating.

Nausea.

Vomiting.

Fever.

Blood in the stool.

Mucus in the stool.

Urgent need to have a bowel movement.

Causes

Viruses. ...

Bacteria and parasites. ...

Medications. ...

Lactose intolerance. ...

Fructose. ...

Artificial sweeteners. ...

Surgery. ...

Other digestive disorders.

Risk factors

Viruses. ...

Bacteria and parasites. ...

Medications. ...

Lactose intolerance. ...

Fructose. ...

Artificial sweeteners. ...

Surgery. ...

Other digestive disorders.

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Complications

Diarrhea can cause dehydration, which can be life-threatening if untreated. Dehydration is particularly dangerous in children, older adults and those with weakened immune systems. If you have signs of serious dehydration, seek medical help.

If your diarrhea fails to improve and resolve completely, you can be at risk of complications (dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, kidney failure and organ damage). Call your healthcare provider if you have diarrhea that fails to get better or go away, or if you experience symptoms of dehydration.

Prevention

access to safe drinking-water;

use of improved sanitation;

hand washing with soap;

exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life;

good personal and food hygiene;

health education about how infections spread; and.

rotavirus vaccination.