Frequent, urgent passage of watery stools, abdominal pain or cramps and gasiness are all symptoms of diarrhoea.
This unpleasant experience is often brought on by:
- an underlying infection;
- food poisoning;
- taking antibiotics;
- anxiety or stress,
- overconsumption of alcohol;
- tropical diseases, or;
- eating a certain food that doesn't agree with you.
What you can do
Diarrhoea usually comes on suddenly and resolves itself in 24 to 48 hours. Chronic or frequent recurring diarrhoea is usually due to intestinal disorders such as diverticular disease, irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance or coeliac disease.
With babies or young children, seek your GP's advice, as dehydration can occur quickly.
For adults, whether you need to see a doctor may depend on the severity and duration of your symptoms. There are a number of products you can buy from your pharmacy, such as immodium, that can usually quell mild diarrhoea, stomach cramps and other symptoms.
However, see your doctor if symptoms persist for more than a day or two, or recur frequently or if you experience serious symptoms including:
- blood or pus in the faeces;
- painful passing of faeces;
- repeated vomiting;
- Inability to drink more fluids;
- reduced or absent urination;
- temperature greater than 38°C.
During a bout of diarrhoea:
- Drink plenty of fluids. To prevent dehydration, take frequent sips of water, weak tea and diluted juices. You can also try broths or clear soups, sports drinks or commercial rehydration fluid, available from pharmacies, which can help to replace fluids and lost salts and other minerals.
- Anti-diarrhoea medications can be taken on the advice of your doctor.
- Most importantly, do not eat solid foods or drink sugary drinks like lemonade or undiluted fruit juice, and avoid coffee and milk products.
As the diarrhoea subsides:
Resume solid food gradually. Begin with easily digested food such as rice, crackers, chicken and toast. Avoid fruits, fruit juices, fatty foods and milk until your bowel function is back to normal.