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What is diarrhoea?

Diarrhoea is when you pass stools (poo) more frequently than is normal for you. The stools are usually loose or watery in consistency. Typical bowel habits vary between individuals. Anywhere between 3 stools per day to 3 per week is considered healthy, so long as it is regular for you. A stool should be solid but moist and easy to pass.


How long can sickness & diarrhoea last?

Diarrhoea is a common problem affecting anyone of any age. Most people are affected by diarrhoea at some point in their lives. Diarrhoea usually lasts a day or two and comes on suddenly (an acute attack). However, you can also have chronic diarrhoea, which lasts over a long period of time (2-3 weeks or months). Chronic diarrhoea may signal an underlying health problem or disease affecting the bowel.


What causes diarrhoea?

Diarrhoea occurs when something upsets the normal process of your intestines and so speeds up the whole digestive process. As a result, your bowel movements will be more frequent and liquidy.


Bacteria & Viruses

.Bacteria or viruses can cause diarrhoea. This is commonly referred to as food poisoning. Common types of bacteria which can cause diarrhoea are E.Coli (Escherichia coli) and Salmonella. Both can be found in contaminated food or water. This bacteria occurs more frequently when travelling and is sometimes known as ‘traveller’s diarrhoea’. The viruses that can cause diarrhoea include herpes simplex and hepatitis.


Diarrhoea may also be caused by taking certain medications, such as antibiotics. This may mean that you are intolerant to the drug, and it is worth consulting your GP.

Laxatives, Alcohol & Certain Foods

You can cause diarrhoea by taking laxatives or drinking excess alcohol or caffeine. Eating spicy foods or large amounts of fruit can also cause loose stools, particularly if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. Consuming food you are intolerant to can also lead to the issue.

Stress & Anxiety

Stress is a common cause of loose stools. This is due to excess adrenaline in the body. Adrenaline speeds everything up, including the rate at which food is passed through the body.


Is diarrhoea contagious?

Diarrhoea can sometimes spread from person to person, especially if hygiene is poor, for example, if someone ill prepares food for others without washing their hands. This is why washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water after using the toilet is essential.


What are the symptoms of diarrhoea?

The main symptom of diarrhoea is the consistency and frequency of the stools. Diarrhoea is often accompanied by a lack of appetite, stomach pains, bloated stomach, feeling sick and vomiting. You may also become dehydrated. This can be dangerous for babies and older people. Symptoms of dehydration include thirst, dry skin, dark coloured urine, lightheadedness and fatigue.


Ongoing Symptoms

If you keep getting regular bouts of diarrhoea, it could be a sign of something more serious. If your symptoms last longer than 2-3 days or you have blood in your stool, then you should contact a doctor to test for the following conditions:


How can I avoid getting diarrhoea?

To avoid getting diarrhoea, you should follow these points:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet.
  • Avoid drinking tap water when abroad unless boiled or from sealed bottles.
  • Avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
  • Don’t overeat fibre-rich foods such as fruit.


How to treat diarrhoea

Diarrhoea typically resolves itself without treatment; however, the symptoms can be unpleasant. To help ease diarrhoea symptoms at home, you can follow these steps:

  • Take oral rehydration treatments (Dioralyte) to help replace lost salts and sugars.
  • For severe symptoms, take anti-diarrhoeal medication (Loperamide). 

We have more information about Loperamide on our website. You should avoid taking Loperamide to treat long term diarrhoea without prior investigation of the cause. Babies and children MUST NOT consume these drugs under 12 without medical advice.


What to eat when you have diarrhoea

It’s essential to ensure you still consume food when suffering from diarrhoea. This can be difficult if you are feeling nauseous or experiencing severe symptoms. Here are some food and drink that is better tolerated when you feel ill:

  • Drink plenty of clear fluids, such as water or apple juice, in small amounts. 
  • Eat plain foods such as dry toast, boiled potatoes, rice, or soup.
  • Avoid eating spicy or fatty foods.
  • Avoid drinking coffee, milk and alcohol.


Is diarrhoea a sign of pregnancy?

Diarrhoea is not a sign of early pregnancy; however, it can increase your chances of conceiving. When suffering from diarrhoea, a woman’s contraceptive pill may not provide the maximum protection against unwanted pregnancy. Another form of contraceptive, such as condoms, should be used for at least 7 days while experiencing symptoms.


Do I need to go and see a doctor?

If symptoms persist, you are losing weight, have a fever or notice blood in your stools you should visit your GP. Older people and children should see a doctor when they suffer from diarrhoea.

Your doctor will usually perform a general and anal examination. Your doctor may then arrange for you to have blood tests, x-rays or a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a small flexible telescope which is inserted into the anus so the doctor can see the colon. Your doctor may also want a stool sample to be sent to a laboratory for examination.


Further Help and Advice

If you are suffering from Diarrhoea regularly, for a long period, or you have any concerns at all – please speak to your GP or Doctor for further advice, as severe Diarrhoea could be a sign of a more serious underlying condition.

To provide relief, browse our range of Loperamide, a medication which slows down bowel movements. Also, to ease Haemorrhoids/Piles, which are a common side effect of Diarrhoea, view our range of creams and depositories.