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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.


Return to the emergency department if:

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

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your symptoms do not get better with treatment.
  • You have a fever higher than 101.3°F (38.5°C).
  • You have trouble eating and drinking because you are vomiting.
  • Your diarrhea does not get better in 7 days.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

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. Do not take this medicine unless your healthcare provider says it is okay.
  • Antibiotics may be given to help treat an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Antiparasitics may be given to treat an infection caused by parasites.
  • 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 liquids as directed. Liquids will help prevent dehydration caused by diarrhea. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. You may need to drink an oral rehydration solution (ORS). An ORS has the right amounts of water, salts, and sugar you need to replace body fluids. You can buy an ORS at most grocery stores and pharmacies.
  • Eat foods that are easy to digest. Examples include rice, lentils, cereal, bananas, potatoes, and bread. It also includes some fruits (bananas, melon), well-cooked vegetables, and lean meats. Do not eat foods high in fiber, fat, and sugar. Do not drink alcohol until your diarrhea is gone.

Prevent acute diarrhea:

  • Wash your hands often. Use soap and water. Wash your hands before you eat or prepare food. Also wash your hands after you use the bathroom. Use an alcohol-based hand gel when soap and water are not available.
  • Keep bathroom surfaces clean. This helps prevent the spread of germs that cause acute diarrhea.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables well before you eat them. This can help remove germs that cause diarrhea. If possible, remove the skin from fruits and vegetables, or cook them well before you eat them.
  • Cook meat and poultry as directed. Meat includes beef and pork. Poultry includes chicken, turkey, and duck.
    • Cook ground meat to 160°F.
    • Cook ground poultry, whole poultry, or cuts of poultry to at least 165°F. Remove the poultry from heat. Let it stand for 3 minutes before you eat it.
    • Cook whole cuts of meat other than poultry to at least 145°F. Remove the meat from heat. Let it stand for 3 minutes before you eat it.
  • Wash dishes that have touched raw meat or poultry with hot water and soap. This includes cutting boards, utensils, dishes, and serving containers.
  • Place raw or cooked meat or poultry in the refrigerator as soon as possible. Bacteria can grow in meat or poultry that is left at room temperature too long.
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked oysters, clams, or mussels. These foods may be contaminated and cause infection.
  • Drink only filtered or treated water when you travel. Do not put ice in your drinks. Drink bottled water whenever possible.

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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.

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