What is Diarrhoea?
Experiencing diarrhoea is expected, as it affects almost everyone at some point. Usually, there is no cause for concern, and it will resolve independently. However, if it persists for an extended period, it can risk one's health.
In most adults, diarrhoea typically clears up within a week, whereas in children, it should resolve within four days. If the symptoms persist beyond these time frames, it is advisable to consult a physician for further guidance.
The following symptoms characterize diarrhoea:
- Feeling sick
- An urgent need to go to the bathroom
- Thin, loose or watery poo
- Tummy pain
- A large volume of poo
- Tummy cramps (which may ease after going to the toilet)
- Being sick
If you have diarrhoea, it's crucial to watch for dehydration symptoms since you'll lose a significant amount of water. Additional information on this topic can be found later on this page.
Causes of Diarrhoea
The primary reason for experiencing this condition is an infection in the gastrointestinal tract. This may also be known as gastroenteritis or stomach flu and can be triggered by various factors, including viruses like norovirus and bacteria like E. coli or salmonella, which can result in food poisoning and, in uncommon cases, parasites.
Can Diarrhoea be a symptom of something else?
Diarrhoea may be a sign of other medical issues, such as:
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Medications, like antibiotics or statins
- Allergies to certain foods
- Laxative abuse
- Drinking contaminated water
- Food poisoning (caused by food that is contaminated with harmful bacteria)
Health conditions could also cause the illness:
- Crohn’s disease
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Bowel cancer
- Diverticular disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Ulcerative colitis
Diarrhoea in Adults
You should be able to manage your symptoms at home for mild cases. However, it's essential to seek urgent medical attention if you encounter any of the following alongside your diarrhoea:
- Presence of blood, mucus, or black, tarry stools in your bowel movements
- Unexplained weight loss
- Elevated body temperature
- Diarrhea persisting beyond five days
- Inability to consume fluids due to severe sickness
- Intense abdominal or rectal pain
- Onset of diarrhoea after returning from a foreign country
- Signs of dehydration
- Recent antibiotic use or hospitalization
Additionally, if diarrhoea continues for more than four days, it's advisable to consult a doctor.
When talking with a doctor, they may inquire about recent toilet habits, if the diarrhoea could have been contracted from another person or source, and any medications being taken. They can offer advice, provide comfort, and administer treatment if necessary.
You may be asked to send a stool sample to a lab for analysis if the condition is severe.
For adults, diarrhoea is usually a short-term issue, lasting no more than one week. Children should see an improvement in the condition within four days. If either group experiences diarrhoea for longer than this, medical advice should be sought.
If you are experiencing diarrhoea, you can take anti-diarrhoea medications such as loperamide and racecadotril to help lessen the number of toilet trips and shorten the episode's duration. Our doctors can provide advice regarding the best treatment for you, so don't hesitate to speak to them.
Looking out for Dehydration
When experiencing diarrhoea, one tends to lose a significant amount of water, leading to dehydration. Therefore, it is vital to drink plenty of water to replenish the lost fluid.
It is essential to be aware of the signs of dehydration, as they can be harmful if not treated, especially in infants and children. These consist of:
- Dark coloured wee
- Dry lips, eyes and skin
- Low amounts of wee
- Having a fast pulse
- Being very thirsty
In addition to the above, babies and children may also suffer from:
- Sunken eyes
- Sunken fontanel (soft spot on their head)
- A lack of tears when crying
How can you Prevent Diarrhoea?
Preventing diarrhoea can be challenging due to its various causes, but there are preventive measures you can take:
- Maintain regular handwashing, particularly after using the restroom and before handling or consuming food.
- Exercise extra caution in thoroughly cleaning the toilet after experiencing diarrhoea, including disinfecting the toilet, toilet brush, and door handles.
- Refrain from sharing towels, utensils, and other personal items, especially if someone has had diarrhoea recently.
- When clothing, bedding, or towels become soiled, wash them at a high temperature.
- Wait 48 hours after your last episode of diarrhoea before returning to work or school.
- While travelling internationally, avoid consuming unsafe tap water and undercooked foods.
- If concerns arise or you're suffering from diarrhoea, don't hesitate to contact one of our doctors for advice and potential treatment options.
How can Mobidoctor help?
Mobi Doctor offers the convenience of a virtual doctor visit. You can connect with a doctor via video consultation from the comfort of your home or on the go. They can diagnose any diarrhoea-related issues and provide the right treatment plan to help you recover quickly.
Diarrhoea in Children and Babies
It is usually safe to look after your little one at home. However, if your baby or toddler is showing signs of diarrhoea, it is essential to seek urgent medical help. Dehydration can occur within 24 hours due to diarrhoea, so it is necessary to recognize the symptoms of dehydration. For more information about the warning signs, visit the link provided.
You should contact a doctor if your child has:
- Both sickness and diarrhoea
- Watery poo
- Dehydration symptoms
- Blood or pus in their poo
- Had six or more bouts of diarrhoea in 24 hours
- Bad tummy ache that won't go away
- Been sick three times or more in 24 hours
If your child has diarrhoea, it is essential to seek medical advice. Mobi Doctor's doctors can see you and your child via video consultation, meaning you can receive care from home. Most cases of diarrhoea will resolve within two weeks, but if you are concerned, book an appointment today.