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Diarrhoea is having more frequent, loose, watery poo, which may be referred to as 'stools'. Some people may also have other symptoms, depending on the cause.


It affects most people from time to time and is usually nothing to worry about. However, it can be distressing and unpleasant until it passes, which normally takes a few days to a week.



There are many different causes of diarrhoea, but a bowel infection (gastroenteritis) is a common cause in both adults and children.


Gastroenteritis can be caused by:

  • a virus – such as norovirus or rotavirus

  • bacteria – such as campylobacter or Escherichia coli (E. coli), which are often picked up from contaminated food

  • a parasite – such as the parasite that causes giardiasis, which is spread in contaminated water



Diarrhoea can be accompanied by:

  • Urgency (having to go right away)

  • Incontinence (leakage of stools)

  • Bloating, wind

  • Rectal pain

  • Lower abdominal pain or cramping

  • Nausea, vomiting

  • Fever

  • Blood or flecks of mucus in the stool

  • Loss of appetite, weight loss

  • generalised weakness.


You can reduce your risk by making sure you maintain high standards of hygiene. For example, you should:

  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after going to the toilet, before eating or preparing food and changing nappies

  • clean the toilet, including the handle and the seat, with disinfectant after each bout of diarrhoea

  • avoid sharing towels, flannels, cutlery or utensils with others

  • wash soiled clothing and bed linen separately from other clothes and at the highest temperature possible – for example, 60C or higher for linen – after first removing any poo into the toilet

  • avoid returning to work or school until at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea

  • It's important to practise good food and water hygiene while travelling abroad, such as avoiding potentially unsafe tap water and undercooked food.



Most cases of diarrhoea clear up after a few days without treatment, and you may not need to see your GP.


However, diarrhoea can lead to dehydration, so you should drink plenty of fluids – frequent small sips of water – until it passes.


It's very important that babies and small children don't become dehydrated. Your pharmacist may suggest you use an oral rehydration solution (ORS) if you or your child is particularly at risk of dehydration.



Culled from Staywellworld blog post dated February 28, 2017.

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