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Acute Diarrhea


Acute diarrhea starts quickly and lasts a short time, usually 1 to 3 days. It can last up to 2 weeks. You may not be able to control your diarrhea. Acute diarrhea usually stops on its own.


Seek care immediately if:

  • You are unable to drink any liquids.
  • Your eyes look deeply sunken, or you have no tears when you cry.
  • You urinate less than usual, or your urine is dark yellow.
  • Your heartbeat is faster than normal.
  • You have blood or mucus in your stools.
  • You have severe abdominal pain.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your have mild or moderate abdominal pain.
  • You have a fever higher than 101.3°F.
  • You have trouble eating and drinking because of vomiting.
  • You are thirsty or have a dry mouth.
  • You urinate less than usual.
  • You feel tired, restless, or irritated.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.


  • Diarrhea medicine is an over-the-counter medicine that helps slow or stop your diarrhea.
  • Antibiotics may be given to help treat a bacterial infection.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him of her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.


  • Drink plenty of liquids. This will help to prevent dehydration. Ask how much liquid you should drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Avoid coffee and alcohol.
  • Drink oral rehydration solution. Oral rehydration solution (ORS) has the right amounts of water, salts, and sugar that you need to replace lost body fluids. Ask what kind of ORS you should use, how much to drink, and where to get it.
  • Continue to eat regular foods. Choose foods that you can tolerate. These may include rice, potatoes, and bread. It also includes some fruits (bananas, melon), well-cooked vegetables, lean meats, yogurt, and skim or 1% milk. Avoid foods high in fiber, fat, and sugar. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about foods you can eat while you have acute diarrhea.

Prevent acute diarrhea:

  • Wash your hands. Wash your hands well and often, such as each time you use the bathroom or before you cook. Use waterless hand gel when you are in a place where you cannot wash your hands.
  • Keep bathroom surfaces clean to help prevent the spread of germs that cause acute diarrhea.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables well before eating.
  • Wash kitchen counters and cooking utensils well after you have prepared any raw meats.
  • Place raw meat in the refrigerator as soon as possible after shopping at the supermarket. Bacteria can grow in meat that is left at room temperature too long. Cook meat thoroughly before eating. Place leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as possible.
  • Avoid unsterilized water and uncooked vegetables when you travel to foreign countries.

© 2017 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.