Diarrhea is the favorite traveling companion and most unwelcome houseguest.
Diarrhea is nothing but a frequent, loose, or watery stools, often with abdominal cramps, vomiting, or fever. Stools move so quickly through the intestines that the body is unable to absorb the water in them. Because of this loss of fluid, it is possible for diarrhea to lead to dehydration. So, it is important to drink extra liquids at the first sign of diarrhea.
Diarrhea can be caused by bacteria, viruses, emotional upset, stress, certain drugs, and some chronic bowel diseases, With bacterial infections of the colon, however, diarrhea is usually more severe, lasting longer than usual. Prolonged diarrhea may also be a symptom of condition such as giardiasis (if you have been traveling), amoebic dysentery, Crohnís disease, ulcerative colitis, or food intolerances.
Most diarrhea goes away on its own or with self-care within 2 days. When a diet of clear liquids doesnít help, the doctor may prescribe you some medicines.
Diarrhea is always unpleasant, but itís usually not a major health concern for healthy adults. If severe, however, it can seriously weaken young children and older people.
Signs and Symptoms
Severe, constant abdominal pain lasting longer than 4 hours .
Accompanied by breathing difficulty .
Is associated with recent international travel; ingestion of untreated water from lakes, streams, or wells; or blood streaking on toilet paper and no history of hemorrhoids .
Person is elderly or has a chronic illness, such as diabetes .
Persistent mucus or blood in stool .
Intermittent abdominal pain or cramping that lasts 24 hours or longer .
Symptoms of diarrhea accompanied by what you believe to be a high fever .
Black and sticky or dark red stools, dizziness, sweatiness .
Lasts longer than 1 week .
Lasts less than 48 hours with mild cramping thatís relieved by bowel movements
Before eating, wash your hands after using toilet as it is an important way to prevent the spread of organisms that can cause diarrhea.
Undercooked fish, poultry, eggs, meat and unpasteurised dairy products can also have bacteria that can cause diarrhea. To avoid this, always cook foods thoroughly and wash cutting boards, utensils, and hands that have touched uncooked meat products in warm, soapy water. Eat only pasteurized dairy products. Be sure to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Harmful bacteria can grow in foods left at room temperature for too long.
Travelers to foreign countries should avoid drinking or cooking with unpurified water. Water can be purified by boiling it for 15 to 20 minutes or by adding special iodine or chlorine drops or tablets. Itís very important to follow product directions exactly when using water- purifying products. Travelers should also avoid fresh fruits and vegetables unless the foods have been thoroughly washed in purified water or can be peeled. Be wary of foods such as melons, which are often injected with water (sometimes contaminated) to increase their weight.
Adults Ė Self care steps
Drink enough liquids so that the amount of urine you pass stays at the nor mal level or is slightly more.
Avoid alcohol, smoking, caffeine, milk, and fruit juice.
When your appetite returns but diarrhea continues, choose the following foods: ripe bananas, rice, applesauce, white toast, cooked cereal, potatoes, chicken, turkey, cooked carrots.
Donít eat if your stomach feels very upset or crampy.
Drink only clear liquids such as water, flat nondiet soda (ginger ale, 7 Up, Sprite), clear chicken or beef broth, or Gatorade. Sip a few ounces a bit at a time throughout the day.
Suck ice chips or popsicles if other liquids canít be kept down.
Avoid until diarrhea is gone: fresh fruits, green vegetables, alcohol, greasy or fatty foods (cheeseí burgers, bacon), highly seasoned or spicy foods.
Call the advice nurse if you believe the diarrhea could be caused by a drug. Diarrhea is a common side effect of many drugs.
Diarrhea - Children
Diarrhea is more common in infants and young children because their digestive system are still developing. Diarrhea in children most often goes away on its own. The parentsí job is to closely watch the child with diarrhea and to see that the child gets enough liquids, the right diet, and lots of tender loving care.
Just as in adults, the major concern for children with diarrhea is dehydration.. Because of their smaller body size, children can become dehydrated more rapidly than adults.
Take care to the following signs of fluid depletion in children
- No urination (more than 8 hours with out urinating for children under 1 year old; more than 12 hours without urination for children 1 year and older).
- Unusually dark yellow or strong smelling urine.
- Dry mouth.
- Absence of tears.
- Dizziness or disorientation.
- In an infant, a sunken soft spot (fontanel) on the top of the head.