What is diarrhea?
Diarrhea refers to loose and watery bowel movements. Almost everyone has diarrhea at some time in his or her life. It is especially common in children, who may have diarrhea 2 or 3 times a year.
What causes diarrhea?
Diarrhea is usually caused by an infection or food poisoning. It may also be caused by stress, anxiety, diseases, medications or difficulty digesting some foods.
What can you do to prevent diarrhea from infections or food poisoning?
■ Always wash your hands with hot, soapy water after going to the toilet or changing a diaper.
■ Always wash your hands with hot, soapy water before and after preparing or eating food.
■ Do not drink milk or fruit juices that have not been pasteurized (check the label).
■ Cook foods thoroughly, especially red meat, poultry (chicken and turkey) and eggs.
■ Eat food soon after it is cooked so that germs do not have time to grow.
■ Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water before you eat them.
■ Keep hot foods hot (60°C) and cold foods cold (4°C).
■ Keep raw meat and poultry away from all other foods, especially when you are preparing food.
■ Use separate cutting boards for raw meats and other foods.
■ If serving leftovers, make sure they are reheated all the way through.
■ Use soap and hot water to clean counters, cutting boards and utensils.
■ Protect food from insects and animals.
How do you treat diarrhea?
■ Make sure you get enough fluids.
■ Dehydration can be a serious problem for children, older people and people with chronic medical conditions. Ask your pharmacist about using an oral rehydration solution (a special mixture of water and salts) for these people.
■ Talk to your pharmacist about medications used to treat diarrhea.
When should you see your health-care provider?
See a health-care provider if you have any of these symptoms:
■ A high fever (over 38.5°C or 101 °F)
■ A bowel movement that has blood in it or looks black
■ Diarrhea that lasts longer than 2 days
■ Severe pain in your belly
■ More than 6 bowel movements in 1 day
■ Signs of dehydration (very thirsty, weak or lightheaded, dry mouth or tongue, not urinating as often as usual)
Take children with diarrhea to the doctor if:
■ They are younger than 6 months of age, or they have vomiting that lasts longer than 4-6 hours, or
They show any of these signs of dehydration:
– dry mouth or tongue
– no tears when they cry
– less than 4 wet diapers in 24 hours
– their eyes or soft spot are sunken
– they are irritable or have low energy