What is diarrhea? Diarrhea is something that we have all experienced at one time or another. It is very loose watery stools that come on very quickly. They are usually associated with abdominal cramping and may be accompanied with vomiting as well. Having diarrhea means having to go to the bathroom more often than usual. It also means that a person is losing a lot more fluid than they usually do.
Acute diarrhea which lasts one to two days can be due to anything from a viral process to salmonella and usually will stop within two days, however if diarrhea lasts longer it can be a sign of other more serious illness. Any diarrhea that lasts longer than two days should be evaluated by a medical professional.
Diarrhea if not treated can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance since a person is losing a lot of fluids in their stools. Some signs of dehydration in adults include excessive thirst, very dry mouth, small amounts of urine or no urination, being dizzy, very lightheaded, or very weak, and extremely dark colored urine. Anyone that thinks they are dehydrated needs to seek medical attention immediately!
Signs of dehydration in infants and toddlers include an extremely dry mouth or no tears when they cry. If they have no wet diapers for over 4 hours, their skin does not flatten out when pinched up between two fingers, they appear very lethargic or sleepy, lifeless, drowsy, or irritable. Also, if you notice that their cheeks or eyes appear to be sunken or they have a fever of 102 (F) or above.
What are some ways to treat diarrhea at home to keep from getting dehydrated? The first thing that people need to do is to replace those fluids to keep from getting dehydrated as much as possible. For adults sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade are very good to help to replace some of the electrolytes that they are losing in their stools. Limiting the diet until the diarrhea has subsided will help the stomach and intestines to rest and allow them to heal quicker. Foods such as rice, Jell-O, bananas, dry toast, and crackers will not upset the stomach and will help. Avoid milk or any milk products while having diarrhea as these types of food and drinks can be hard on the stomach and intestines. Drinks for adults should be limited to Sprite, apple juice, Gatorade, Powerade, Coke, or Pepsi. This diet should be followed for 24 to 48 hours.
Children can follow the same diet as adults. There is Pedialyte for children that can be purchased at the grocery store. It has all the electrolytes in it and tastes like the sports drinks for adults. It is very good to help replace electrolytes in children but has less sugar in it than the adult sports drinks do. Most pediatricians recommend Pedialyte for their patients when they have any kind of abdominal upset or diarrhea. If diarrhea persists in a child, parents should consult a pediatrician for input however.
There are several over the counter medications that can be purchased that will help to slow down the diarrhea to allow a person to not dehydrate as quickly. Imodium is one of these types of medications. It is available over the counter in both pill and liquid form. It can be purchased in generic form as well. It is inexpensive and should be in everyone’s medicine cabinet for those times that we come down with diarrhea in the middle of the night and do not want to run to the pharmacy!
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