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Diarrhea is the sudden increase in the frequency and looseness of BMs (bowel movements, stools)
Mild diarrhea is the passage of a few loose or mushy BMs
Severe diarrhea is the passage of many watery BMs
The majority of adults with diarrhea of less than two weeks duration have an infectious cause for their diarrhea, and in most cases the infection is a virus. Other common causes of acute diarrhea are food poisoning and medications.
Maintaining good hydration is the cornerstone of treatment of adults with acute diarrhea.
In general, an adult who is alert, feels well, and who is not thirsty or dizzy - is not dehydrated. A couple loose or runny stools do not cause dehydration. Frequent, watery stools can cause dehydration.
Antibiotic therapy is only rarely required in the treatment of acute diarrhea. One type of acute diarrhea that requires antibiotic therapy is Traveler's Diarrhea.
VOMITING is worse than the diarrhea
Very weak (can't stand)
You feel weak or very sick
Fever of 103° F (39.4° C) or higher
Signs of dehydration (e.g., no urine in more than 12 hours, very dry mouth, lightheaded, etc.)
Severe abdominal pain
Constant abdominal pain for more than 2 hours
Bloody bowel movements
Black bowel movements
More than 10 diarrhea stools in the past 24 hours
You think you need to be seen
Fever of 101° F (38.3° C) or higher
Abdominal pain (Exception: Pain clears with each passage of diarrhea stool)
Mucus or pus in stool for greater than 2 days
Small amount of blood in the stool (Exception: only on toilet paper. Reason: diarrhea can cause rectal irritation with blood on wiping)
Recent antibiotic treatment
Have diabetes mellitus or a weakened immune system (e.g., HIV positive, cancer chemotherapy, chronic steroid treatment, splenectomy)
Travel to a foreign country in the past month
Receiving tube feedings (e.g., nasogastric, g-tube, j-tube)
Age greater than 70 years
You have other questions or concerns
Diarrhea persists for more than 7 days
Diarrhea is a recurrent problem
Mild diarrhea and you don't think you need to be seen
Reassurance: In healthy adults, new onset diarrhea is usually caused by a viral infection of the intestines, which you can treat at home. Diarrhea is the body's way of getting rid of the infection. Here are some tips on how to keep ahead of the fluid losses.
Drink more fluids, at least 8-10 glasses (8 oz) daily.
For example: sports drinks, diluted fruit juices, soft drinks.
Supplement this with saltine crackers or soups to make certain that you are getting sufficient fluid and salt to meet your body's needs.
Avoid caffeinated beverages (Reason: caffeine is mildly dehydrating).
Maintaining some food intake during episodes of diarrhea is important.
Ideal initial foods include boiled starches/cereals (e.g., potatoes, rice, noodles, wheat, oats) with a small amount of salt to taste.
Other acceptable foods include: bananas, yogurt, crackers, soup.
As your stools return to normal consistency, resume a normal diet.
Diarrhea Medication - Bismuth Subsalicylate (e.g., Kaopectate, PeptoBismol):
Helps reduce diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramping.
Adult dosage: two tablets or two tablespoons by mouth every hour (if diarrhea continues) to a maximum of 8 doses in a 24-hour period.
Do not use for more than 2 days
Diarrhea Medication - Imodium AD:
Helps reduce diarrhea.
Adult dosage: 2 caplets or 4 teaspoonfuls (40 ml) initially by mouth. May take an additional caplet or 2 teaspoonfuls (10 ml) with each subsequent loose BM. Maximum of 4 caplets or 8 teaspoonfuls each day.
Do not use if there is a fever greater than 100° F (37.8° C) or if there is blood or mucus in the stools.
Do not use for more than 2 days.
Read and follow the package instructions carefully.
Expected Course: Viral diarrhea lasts 4-7 days. Always worse on days 1 and 2.
Call Your Doctor If:
Signs of dehydration occur (e.g., no urine for more than 12 hours, very dry mouth, lightheaded, etc.)
Diarrhea persists over 7 days
You become worse
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