Dr. Rick, I get diarrhea fairly frequently. Do you have any suggestions?
Behind closed doors or in emails, I get lots of questions about diarrhea. Diarrhea means the bowel movements are runny or watery and happen three or more times in a day. Loose stools are very common and adults have it about four times a year.
Diarrhea can be caused by viruses, bacteria that live in food or water, parasites, such as tiny worms that you can catch in some countries, side effects from some medicines, problems digesting certain types of food and inflammatory diseases of the digestive system.
At home remedies for diarrhea include drinking increased amounts of liquids that have water, salt, and sugar. Good choices are water mixed with juice, flavored soda and soup broth. If you are drinking enough fluids, your urine will be light yellow or almost clear. Try to eat a little food like potatoes, noodles, rice, oatmeal, crackers, bananas, soup and boiled vegetables. Salty foods help the most. Over the counter medication loperamide (brand name: Imodium) is safe for adults if there is no fever or bloody bowel movements. Pepto Bismol can be taken but you need to follow the label instructions.
These are warning signs that you need to see your doctor: if symptoms aren’t better after 48 hours; you have more than six runny bowel movements in 24 hours; lots of small bowel movements with blood or mucus; the diarrhea is black or bloody; you have a fever higher than 100.4ºF (38ºC); severe belly pain; are 70 or older or have diarrhea after finishing antibiotics.
The loss of too much fluid from diarrhea can cause dehydration. Symptoms include feeling very tired, thirst, dry mouth or tongue, muscle cramps, dizziness, confusion, urine that is very yellow, or not urinating for more than five hours.
Usually, fluids by mouth, loperamide or Pepto Bismol (taken as the labels recommend) and time will fix things. However, that depends on what is causing your diarrhea. If you see your doctor, he might order special tests, prescribe medicines that ease diarrhea, fluids through an IV (intravenous therapy), stop some of your medicines, change the foods you eat or antibiotics sometimes may be recommended.
Tips to decrease your chances of getting and spreading diarrhea:
Hope this helps,
- Dr. Rick
Dr. Rick deShazo, professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and a practicing physician, is the host of “Southern Remedy”. The medical information presented by “Southern Remedy” is meant to provide general information about the topics discussed, and should not be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. The information conveyed does not create any type of patient-physician relationship and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Please consult your health-care provider before making any health-care decisions and for guidance about your specific medical condition.