What is Diarrhoea?
Diarrhoea is very common, in fact, almost everyone will have experienced it at some point and most of the time it’s nothing to worry about and will go away on its own. However, extended bouts can be dangerous.
In adults, diarrhoea will usually pass within five days to a week. In children, it should pass within 4 days. In each case, if it doesn’t, you should speak to a doctor for further advice.
The most common symptoms of diarrhoea include:
- Thin, loose or watery poo
- A large volume of poo
- Tummy cramps (which may ease after going to the toilet)
- Tummy pain
- An urgent need to go to the bathroom
- Feeling sick
- Being sick
It’s really important that you look out for signs of dehydration if you have diarrhoea as you will lose a lot of water. We’ve covered this in more detail further down the page.
Causes of diarrhoea
There are many different causes, but an infection in your gut is the most common reason. This can also be referred to as stomach flu or gastroenteritis and can be caused by a few different things, including a virus, like norovirus, bacteria, such as E. coli or salmonella, which can cause food poisoning, and in rarer cases, parasites.
Can diarrhoea be a symptom of something else?
Yes, diarrhoea can also be a symptom of other illnesses or conditions, including:
- Allergies to certain foods
- Food poisoning (caused by food that is contaminated with bad bacteria)
- Drinking contaminated water
- Medications, like antibiotics or statins
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Laxative abuse
The condition could also caused by a health condition including:
Diarrhoea in children and babies
Usually, your baby or toddler can be looked after at home. However, diarrhoea can lead to severe dehydration in just 24 hours in youngsters, so if they are showing symptoms, seek urgent medical help. You can find out more about the symptoms of dehydration here.
You should contact a GP if your child has:
- Had six or more bouts of diarrhoea in 24 hours
- Been sick three times or more in 24 hours
- Both sickness and diarrhoea
- Watery poo
- Blood or pus in their poo
- Bad tummy ache that won’t go away
- Dehydration symptoms
If the diarrhoea has lasted for more than 5 days, it’s also a good idea to speak to a doctor to find out the underlying cause.
At Push Doctor, our GPs can see you and your baby or child over video consultation from your home, at a time that suits you. Book an appointment today if you are worried.
Diarrhoea in adults
If it’s mild, you should be able to manage your symptoms from home. However, you should see a doctor urgently if you experience any of these along with your diarrhoea:
- Blood or mucus in your poo, or black, tarry stools
- Weight loss
- High temperature
- Diarrhoea lasting longer than 5 days
- Sickness that stops you from drinking liquids to replace lost fluids
- Severe pain in your abdomen or bottom
- Diarrhoea after coming back from a foreign country
- Dehydration symptoms
- You’ve recently taken antibiotics or have been in hospital
If the diarrhoea has lasted for more than 4 days, it’s also a good idea to speak to a doctor.
A GP can offer advice and reassurance, or treatment if you need it. When asking you about your symptoms, they’ll ask about your recent toilet habits, whether you could have caught the diarrhoea from someone or something else and what medications you’re taking, if any.
In severe cases, your GP may ask you for a stool sample, which they’ll send off to a lab to be analysed.
As we mentioned earlier, in adults, diarrhoea usually passes within five days to a week. In children, it should pass within 4 days. If it lasts any longer, you should speak to a doctor.
Anti-diarrhoea medicines are available to help stop you needing the toilet and to help shorten how long it lasts. They include loperamide and racecadotril. You can speak to one of our doctors if you’re concerned and they can recommend the best treatment for you.
Looking out for dehydration
You lose a lot of water when you have diarrhoea, which can mean you become dehydrated, so make sure you are drinking lots of water to replace the fluid that you are losing.
It’s really important to recognise dehydration symptoms, as they can be dangerous if you don’t get them treated, particularly in babies and children. They include:
- Being very thirsty
- Low amounts of wee
- Dark coloured wee
- Having a fast pulse
- Dry lips, eyes and skin
As well as the above, babies and children may also have:
- A lack of tears when crying
- Sunken eyes
- Sunken fontanel (soft spot on their head)
See a doctor urgently if your baby is showing any of these symptoms.
How can you prevent diarrhoea?
Diarrhoea has many causes, so it’s not always possible to avoid, but there are things you can do to help prevent it, including:
- Washing your hands regularly, especially after going to the toilet or when preparing or eating food.
- Being extra careful about cleaning the toilet after a bout of diarrhoea, including the toilet itself, toilet brush, door handle etc.
- Not sharing towels, cutlery etc. with other people, especially if they’ve had diarrhoea recently.
- If you’ve soiled any clothes, bedding or towels, make sure you wash them on a high temperature.
- Don’t return to work or school until at least 48 hours after your last bout of diarrhoea.
- If you’re travelling abroad, avoid unsafe tap water and undercooked food.
If you’re worried, or are suffering because of diarrhoea, get in touch with one of our doctors and they can offer you advice and treatment if you need it.
At Push Doctor, you can see a GP online from home, work or even on the go, on any device. They can look at your knee over video consultation, listen to your symptoms and suggest the right treatment to get you back up on your feet as quickly as possible.
How can Push Doctor help?
You can see a GP about your knee pain at a time that suits you. Our doctors are available 7 days a week and can offer you the advice you may need. They can also refer you to a specialist for further investigation or treatment.