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Acute Diarrhea, Ambulatory Care

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.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Stomach pain, or a fever higher than 103°F with chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache or abdominal pain
  • Symptoms of dehydration such as thirst, decreased urination, dry skin, sunken eyes, or fast, pounding heartbeat.

Seek immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • Inability to drink any liquids
  • Deeply sunken eyes or no tears when you cry
  • Urinating less than usual or dark yellow urine
  • Faster than normal heartbeat
  • Blood or mucus in your stools
  • Severe abdominal pain

Treatment for acute diarrhea

may include medicines to slow or stop your diarrhea. You may also need medicine to treat a bacterial infection.

Manage your symptoms:

  • 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 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.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

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

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

© 2016 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.

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