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Diarrhea

When food exposures, antibiotic treatment, or a side effect of a medication can not easily explain new diarrhea, a virus is probably the cause of the problem.

A variety of common viruses can result in irritation of the stomach and intestines, called "gastroenteritis." These viruses are usually spread when a person touches a surface or item that has been contaminated by unclean hands, and then touches his or her food or mouth. Viruses that cause gastroenteritis are spread especially fast in the presence of young children who have not learned proper bathroom hygiene, and also within public swimming fountains and pools.

Fortunately, gastroenteritis symptoms that are from a virus go away on their own without treatment. Fever, vomiting and abdominal cramps usually last only a few days, but loose stools and may linger for a week or longer. If you are not getting better after five days, contact your doctor.

If you have more than a few episodes of diarrhea per day, you may become significantly dehydrated as a result of gastroenteritis. Treatment with intravenous (IV) fluids might be necessary. If you notice dizziness or feel that you are losing fluid faster than you can keep up with by drinking, you should contact your doctor urgently. Your doctor's care is especially important if you are elderly or have heart disease or diabetes.


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