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Treating Diarrhea

Diarrhea occurs when you have loose, watery, or frequent bowel movements. It is a common problem with many causes. Most cases of diarrhea clear up on their own. But certain cases may need treatment. Be sure to see your health care provider if your symptoms do not improve within a few days.

Woman drinking glass of water.

Getting Relief

Treatment of diarrhea depends on its cause. Diarrhea caused by bacterial or parasite infection is often treated with antibiotics. Diarrhea caused by other factors, such as a stomach virus, often improves with simple home treatment. The tips below may also help relieve your symptoms.

  • Drink plenty of fluids. This helps prevent too much fluid loss (dehydration). Water, clear soups, and electrolyte solutions are good choices. Avoid alcohol, coffee, tea, and milk. These can make symptoms worse.

  • Suck on ice chips if drinking makes you queasy.

  • Return to your normal diet slowly. You may want to eat bland foods at first, such as rice and toast. Also, you may need to avoid certain foods for a while, such as dairy products. These can make symptoms worse. Ask your health care provider if there are any other foods you should avoid.

  • If you were prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed.

  • Do not take anti-diarrhea medications without asking your health care provider first.

Call Your Health Care Provider If You Have:

  • Fever of 102°F (38.0°C) or higher

  • Severe pain

  • Worsening diarrhea or diarrhea for more than 2 days

  • Bloody vomit or stool

  • Signs of dehydration (dizziness, dry mouth and tongue, rapid pulse, dark urine)

Online Medical Reviewer: Dozier, Tennille, RN, BSN, RDMS
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 3/30/2014
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.