Diarrhea is simply the passing of loose, watery stool. It occurs when something prevents your small intestine from absorbing the water in your stool and there are a variety of potential causes for diarrhea.
Some of the common symptoms of diarrhea include:
- Pain or cramping in the abdomen
- Urgent need to use the washroom
- Loss of control of bowel movements
Occasional diarrhea is common and usually nothing to worry about. If your diarrhea only lasts a day or two and is not accompanied by any additional symptoms, there’s no need to see a doctor.
When Do You See a Doctor For Diarrhea?
Sometimes, diarrhea is a little more complicated than just eating something that didn’t sit right. It could actually be a symptom of an underlying infection or condition.
You need to seek immediate medical care if your diarrhea is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
Lasting for more than two days (or one day for children and infants) without improvement:
- Persistent diarrhea that does not improve (or worsens) over time is a sign that there is something wrong.
- Chronic diarrhea can last over four weeks and is better to catch sooner rather than later.
- For children and infants, if their diarrhea lasts for over 24 hours, then they should see a doctor.
Six or more loose stools passed in 24 hours:
- Passing this many loose stools in 24 hours puts you at a greater risk for dehydration and malabsorption.
- Dehydration occurs when your body loses too much water and has the following symptoms:
- Dark urine
- Dry mouth
- Sunken eyes or cheeks
- Light-headedness or dizziness
- Absence of tears while crying (in children)
- Malabsorption occurs when your body does not absorb nutrients from food and has the following symptoms:
- Changes in appetite
- Rapid weight loss
- Loose, greasy, and particularly foul-smelling bowel movements
A fever of 102 F or higher:
- High fevers could be a sign of severe infection, which requires medical treatment.
- Like a fever, vomiting can also be a sign of an infection.
- Vomiting increases your risk of dehydration and malabsorption as well.
Recently developed mouth sores:
- Mouth sores could indicate conditions such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease, which require a doctor’s visit for diagnosis.
Severe, unbearable pain in abdomen and/or rectum:
- Pain can be caused by a large number of potential conditions such as appendicitis or irritable bowel syndrome.
- When the pain is severe, it’s important to seek medical care to determine where the pain is coming from, and what can be done to relieve it.
Bloody or black stools:
- Blood in your stools could indicate a chronic condition, or more temporary conditions such as food-borne illnesses or hemorrhoids.
Pus in stools:
- Puss in your stool could indicate inflammation or infection, both of which should be treated by a doctor.
Any one of these symptoms is a sign of something requiring urgent medical attention and are indicators that you should see a doctor about diarrhea.
At the end of the day, no one understands your body better than you do. So, if you find yourself having moderate diarrhea more often than usual or something just feels off about it, there is no shame in going to see the doctor for diarrhea.
In these less urgent cases, WalkInVirtualClinics can provide trusted and discreet medical advice and treatment from the privacy of your home.