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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jun 6, 2022.

Colitis is swelling and irritation of your colon. Colitis may be caused by ulcers or a problem with your immune system. Bacteria, a virus, or a parasite may also cause colitis. The cause may not be known. You may have diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, or blood or mucus in your bowel movement.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have sudden trouble breathing.
  • Your bowel movements are black or have blood in them.
  • You have blood in your vomit.
  • You have severe abdominal pain or your abdomen is swollen and feels hard.
  • You have any of the following signs of dehydration:
    • Dizziness or weakness
    • Dry mouth, cracked lips, or severe thirst
    • Fast heartbeat or breathing
    • Urinating very little or not at all

Call your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms get worse or do not go away.
  • You have a fever, chills, cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • You suddenly lose weight without trying.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Medicines may be given to decrease inflammation in your colon and treat diarrhea.
  • 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.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Drink liquids as directed to help prevent dehydration. Good liquids to drink include water, juice, and broth. Ask how much liquid to drink each day. You may need to drink an oral rehydration solution (ORS). An ORS contains a balance of water, salt, and sugar to replace body fluids lost during diarrhea.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, beans, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, and fish. You may need to eat several small meals throughout the day instead of large meals. Avoid spicy foods, caffeine, chocolate, and foods high in fat.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider before you take NSAIDs. NSAIDs can cause worsen your symptoms if ulcers are causing your colitis.
  • Start to exercise when you feel better. Regular exercise helps your bowels work normally. Ask about the best exercise plan for you.

Prevent the spread of germs:

  • Wash your hands often. Wash your hands several times each day. Wash after you use the bathroom, change a child's diaper, and before you prepare or eat food. Use soap and water every time. Rub your soapy hands together, lacing your fingers. Wash the front and back of your hands, and in between your fingers. Use the fingers of one hand to scrub under the fingernails of the other hand. Wash for at least 20 seconds. Rinse with warm, running water for several seconds. Then dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel. Use hand sanitizer that contains alcohol if soap and water are not available. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands first.
  • Cover a sneeze or cough. Use a tissue that covers your mouth and nose. Throw the tissue away in a trash can right away. Use the bend of your arm if a tissue is not available. Wash your hands well with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer.
  • Clean surfaces often. Clean doorknobs, countertops, cell phones, and other surfaces that are touched often. Use a disinfecting wipe, a single-use sponge, or a cloth you can wash and reuse. Use disinfecting cleaners if you do not have wipes. You can create a disinfecting cleaner by mixing 1 part bleach with 10 parts water.
  • Ask about vaccines you may need. Vaccines help prevent disease caused by some viruses and bacteria. Get the influenza (flu) vaccine as soon as recommended each year. The flu vaccine is usually available starting in September or October. Flu viruses change, so it is important to get a flu vaccine every year. Get the pneumonia vaccine if recommended. This vaccine is usually recommended every 5 years. Your provider will tell you when to get this vaccine, if needed. Your healthcare provider can tell you if you should get other vaccines, and when to get them.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

You may need to return for a colonoscopy or other tests. Write down how often you have a bowel movements and what they look like. Bring this to your follow-up visits. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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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