What Is Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is defined as the passage of three or more loose or liquid stools per day, or when your passage is much more frequent than normal.

Diarrhea is often caused by your body’s natural reaction to something unwanted in your gut. This reaction can be triggered by a range of different microorganisms which are often spread via contaminated food and drinking-water or human contact. During a bout of diarrhea, your immune system is working to flush out the unwanted intruder and regain balance in your gut.

Certain foods and medications can also cause a similar immune reaction. For example, individuals allergic to certain foods may experience diarrhea after eating those foods, as the body is working to rid itself of the unwanted allergens.

What Are The Symptoms of Diarrhea?

The most common symptoms of diarrhea include:

Loose, watery stools
Urgent need to have a bowel movement
Abdominal cramping/pain
Blood in the stool

How Long Should Diarrhea Last?

While most cases clear up within a few days, if your diarrhea lasts more than three days, you could be at risk for dehydration. In the process of protecting itself and attempting to regain balance, your body rids itself of more than just the problem-causing intruder – important fluids and electrolytes are also flushed from your system which can lead to dehydration.

Diarrhea and the subsequent dehydration can be quite dangerous in children (especially babies), so call your pediatrician if your child’s symptoms persist beyond one day.

While diarrhea typically resolves itself in a few days, drugs such as loperamide may prolong a bout of diarrhea as they work by slowing your body’s natural flushing process and can potentially keep the problem-causing intruder in your gut longer.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Call your doctor if you or your child experience any of the following symptoms:

Fever above 102°F / 38.8°C
Passage of tarry, black, or bloody stools
Signs of dehydration

Learn More About Diarrhea

Part of our mission is to share our team’s extensive knowledge of diarrhea. Learn more about diarrhea and how it affects travelers and children.

Diarrhea In Children

Learn More

Traveler’s Diarrhea

Learn More
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