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When Does Diarrhea Require a Medical Evaluation?

When Does Diarrhea Require a Medical Evaluation?

Diarrhea is the passing of loose, watery stool at least three times in a single day. Generally, diarrhea caused by the flu or food poisoning goes away on its own. However, if the symptoms persist for more than three days, it could be something more serious. 

We asked our experts at Digestive Disease Consultants of Orange County in Orange County, California, to explain when someone should see a doctor for diarrhea

Diarrhea causes 

The most common causes of diarrhea include viruses (including coronaviruses and most viruses that cause the flu), bacteria, antibiotics, lactose intolerance, artificial sweeteners, and certain digestive disorders. 

When to see a doctor about your diarrhea 

Even if your diarrhea started yesterday, consider seeing a doctor if you can’t keep any foods or liquids down.

You won’t be able to heal without proper hydration, so if you’ve lost a lot of fluids and feel dehydrated, you may need an IV. Signs of dehydration include dizziness, drowsiness, and frequent urination. 

One way to fight dehydration is to drink electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals that redirect water and fluids to tissues that need them the most. Natural sources of electrolytes include mineral water, milk, coconut water, watermelon water, and some sports drinks. 

Other signs indicating that you may need to see a doctor include the following:

Pregnant women should also see a doctor immediately if they’re experiencing diarrhea, as they’re at a higher risk of rapid dehydration. 

In infants and young children, signs of dehydration caused by diarrhea include crying without tears, crying, irritability, sunken eyes, dry mouth, and fever. In young children, dehydration is a medical emergency and should be treated immediately. 

Preventing and treating diarrhea

To prevent diarrhea, wash your hands frequently. This is especially important when touching surfaces touched by other people. Wash your hands before and after preparing food, and use hand sanitizer when traveling or when you don’t have access to a sink. 

Diarrhea is diagnosed by either a stool test, a blood test, or a colonoscopy. If our team suspects the cause of your symptoms is lactose intolerance, they may recommend a hydrogen breath test. 

Depending on the root cause of your diarrhea, our staff may recommend a special diet, treatment to replace lost fluids, and medications to treat underlying conditions that may be causing your symptoms. 

If your diarrhea won’t go away on its own, get peace of mind by contacting us to schedule an appointment

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