Diarrhea

:: Everyone occasionally has diarrhea — loose, watery and possibly more-frequent bowel movements.

Bonum / Conditions / Diarrhea

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms associated with diarrhea may include:

  • Loose, watery stools
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Blood in the stool
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Urgent need to have a bowel movement
Man-with-Diarrhea

Prevention

Preventing viral diarrhea

Wash your hands to prevent the spread of viral diarrhea. To ensure adequate hand-washing:

  • Wash frequently. Wash your hands before and after preparing food. Wash your hands after handling uncooked meat, using the toilet, changing diapers, sneezing, coughing and blowing your nose.
  • Lather with soap for at least 20 seconds. After putting soap on your hands, rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds. This is about as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice through.
  • Use hand sanitizer when washing isn’t possible. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you can’t get to a sink. Apply the hand sanitizer as you would hand lotion, making sure to cover the fronts and backs of both hands. Use a product that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

Vaccination

You can help protect your infant from rotavirus, the most common cause of viral diarrhea in children, with one of two approved vaccines. Ask your baby’s doctor about having your baby vaccinated.

Preventing traveler’s diarrhea

Diarrhea commonly affects people who travel to countries where there’s inadequate sanitation and contaminated food. To reduce your risk:

  • Watch what you eat. Eat hot, well-cooked foods. Avoid raw fruits and vegetables unless you can peel them yourself. Also avoid raw or undercooked meats and dairy foods.
  • Watch what you drink. Drink bottled water, soda, beer or wine served in its original container. Avoid tap water and ice cubes. Use bottled water even for brushing your teeth. Keep your mouth closed while you shower.

Beverages made with boiled water, such as coffee and tea, are probably safe. Remember that alcohol and caffeine can aggravate diarrhea and dehydration.

  • Ask your doctor about antibiotics. If you’re traveling to a developing country for an extended time, ask your doctor about starting antibiotics before you go, especially if you have a weakened immune system. In certain cases, taking an antibiotic might reduce your risk of traveler’s diarrhea.
  •  Check for travel warnings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains a travelers’ health website where disease warnings are posted for various countries. If you’re planning to travel outside of the United States, check there for warnings and tips for reducing your risk.

Still feeling sick?

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