Diarrhea is a symptom, not a disease. It is defined as passing frequent loose stools. The acute form lasts only a day or two and usually isn't serious, but it can be linked with some other problems. It affects people of all ages, and some types are infectious. The average person may get acute diarrhea 3 to 5 times a year, and long-term effects are rare. Children under 5 years of age experience about 1 to 3 episodes of diarrhea every year.
Chronic diarrhea lasts longer than 2 weeks, or shows up as repeated episodes of diarrhea lasting less than 2 weeks each. An inflammatory bowel condition such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease may be to blame.
Children and infants with diarrhea should be seen by a doctor.
People get diarrhea when the feces move too quickly through the bowels so that the intestines don't have enough time to pull water from the waste to "firm it up."
People get diarrhea for many reasons, including:
In functional bowel disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, the muscles that normally move waste along the intestine can spasm, causing diarrhea.
If you think that a medication you're taking is causing the problem, don't stop taking it before talking to your doctor.
Diarrhea isn't always due to things that are eaten or swallowed - emotional stress or turmoil can also bring it on.
Your stool will be loose and watery. You may suffer from abdominal cramping, nausea, or bloating. You may even have a fever, along with chills. If you've had diarrhea for a few days, you may feel lightheaded or weak. This comes from rapidly losing the minerals, sugar, and water that your body needs. Normally, diarrhea won't cause you to lose control of your bowels - if this happens, you should consult your doctor.
You may also notice that you're urinating less. This is because your body is losing water through bowel movements instead of urine. If the diarrhea lasts longer than 48 hours or you have a fever of 38.5ºC or higher, or have severe abdominal pain or vomiting that prevents fluid replacement by mouth, see a doctor immediately. Acute diarrhea accompanied by fever and stools with blood can be signs of a potentially dangerous infection or parasite.
Always consult a doctor for a child with diarrhea who hasn't urinated for 6 hours - the child could be dangerously dehydrated.