How Long Does Diarrhea Last?
Diarrhea normally lasts for one or two days although it may take longer. If it goes on for more than four weeks, it is considered chronic diarrhea.
From a medical viewpoint, diarrhea refers to a condition that comes about because of frequent, very loose and watery stool movements. It occurs when harmful micro-organisms cause irritation of the mucous lined membrane of both the ileum and colon resulting in an excess quantity of water being moved out of the body.
Stool movements are also called bowel movements and are passed out from the body via the anus. The stool we pass out is as a result of the body absorbing the needed nutrients and fluids from the food we have eaten. If this does not happen, then the stool we pass out will be watery or very watery.
Loose stools contain salts, water and other nutrients and tend to weigh more than solid stools. Diarrhea affects most people several times in their lives and should not cause you any worries. However, it can be irritating if it affects you and can take a few days to up to a week to clear up. If it goes on for more than a week then you will need to visit a doctor to have it checked out.
What Causes Diarrhea?
Well, diarrhea can be brought about by several factors, some minor, others major. In most cases, the main cause can be gastroenteritis. This is caused by:
Virus– This could be norovirus, rotavirus, calici virus and adenovirus.
Bacteria– Several bacteria can cause this too including campylobacter, staphylococcus aureus, salmonella, vibrio cholerae and escherichia coli. They are mostly found in or on contaminated substances i.e. food and water.
Parasite– A number of parasites mainly present in contaminated water sources can cause diarrhea. They include giardialamblia, tapeworms and cryptosporidium parvum.
Diarrhea can also be spread through other means. One can be affected during traveling, especially in those areas where hygiene and sanitation standards are low. It is medically referred to as Traveler’s Diarrhea. Other causes or factors include; food poisoning, over consumption of alcohol, diseases such as cholera, side effects of using certain drugs like, anti-hypertensive, antibiotics and deworming drugs, chronic constipation, cancers, hormonal disorders, intolerance of gluten, laxatives, intolerance to lactose, anxiety and its related disorders as well as irritable bowel syndrome.
Symptoms of Diarrhea
You can tell if you have diarrhea when you exhibit some or all of the following signs and symptoms:
- Presence of blood spots in the stool
- Persistent vomiting or a feeling of nausea.
- Severe or persistent stomach problems
- Drastic or sudden weight loss
- Signs of dehydration including excessive sweating, urinating or drowsiness.
- Reduced or complete loss of appetite
- Black or tarry stool
- High fever
Forms of Diarrhea
There are two types of medical diarrhea conditions: the acute form of diarrhea and chronic diarrhea. Acute diarrhea is the most common form and it affects lots of people worldwide. In the United States, it is so common that it comes second to respiratory related infections. It lasts less than 2 weeks and it is deemed less serious. If it goes untreated, then it can become chronic. In babies, acute diarrhea can be life-threatening as their chances of getting dehydration are very high.
Chronic diarrhea on the other hand is regarded as serious and life threatening. It lasts from 2 weeks to up to 4 weeks and if not treated can lead to death.
Chronic diarrhea is at times categorized as either being fatty, watery or inflammatory. It may be due to inflammatory bowel disease that is medically termed as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Other causes can include infections arising from radiotherapy, cancer of the colon or ischemia of the stomach.
Types of Diarrhea
There are two types of diarrhea. There is Rotavirus diarrhea and Traveler’s Diarrhea. Rotavirus diarrhea mainly affects babies and children and is among the leading killers of babies and children. Traveler’s Diarrhea mainly affects people who travel from one place to another less hygienic place.
How to Prevent Diarrhea
Most times, diarrhea is caused by infections from bacteria, viruses, protozoan and contaminations. One can reduce greatly one’s chances of getting it through various ways.
Traveler’s Diarrhea is mostly prevented by maintaining high levels of hygiene and sanitation. One should:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap or disinfectants and warm clean water after visiting the toilet, before and after eating or handling any contaminated substance.
- Ensure you buy groceries and other foodstuffs from clean places, wash and prepare them well. Also, have the habit of buying foodstuffs that are well packed.
- Ensure you always boil water before drinking it.
- Avoid by any means of handling or eating uncooked foodstuffs.
- Ensure you drink bottled or canned water when you visit places you do not know well enough.
- Avoid buying foodstuffs that are sold along the roadside or in dirty places.
- Rotavirus Diarrhea affects babies and is mostly prevented through administration of vaccines. There are two types of vaccines for this type of diarrhea: the rota teq vaccine and the rotarix vaccine. They protect babies and children from getting the rotavirus that can cause diarrhea.
The rota teq is administered to babies in 3 doses, at the ages of 2, 4 and 6 months. The rotatix vaccine on the other hand is administered in doses when the baby attains 6 weeks old and before it reaches 24 weeks old.
How to Treat Diarrhea
If you are having or experiencing episodes of diarrhea then you can apply the following techniques on how to get rid of diarrhea. Diarrhea is treated by replacing the lost body fluids, salts and nutrients with the aim of preventing further dehydration.
You can take medicines to treat it. You have the option of using Loperamide and Bismuth among others. In case it does not stop, stop using the drugs and seek further medical advice. In case of a bloody diarrhea episode, you should not use any over-the-counter medicine. Seek a medical checkup first.
Children or babies with diarrhea should be handled with care. The doctor should first examine them before any other step is taken.
Other means or methods of treatment include:
- Treating any underlying medical conditions, such as cancer. Sometimes the diarrhea can be a sign of a very serious problem in your body and so should be treated early.
- Replacing fluids by intravenous means in the case of severe conditions.
Nutrition and diet
With diarrhea, the first thing one should treat is dehydration as it is the first symptom. You should ensure you drink lots of fluids, especially water, so as to replenish the lost body fluids. For children, they should take drinks with lots of salts and necessary body nutrients.
During and after a diarrhea episode, you should consume foods such as plain rice, potatoes that are boiled, toasted food, some crackers, carrots, bananas, cultured yoghurts and milk products. The foods should be soft and if possible eaten after being smashed. Avoid completely greasy foods, foods with loads of sugar, caffeinated products, alcoholic products and foods with lots of fiber.
After recovering from a bout of diarrhea, you can resume eating your regular foods. But you should do it gradually and only when you feel you are in good shape and have started passing out solid stools.
Diagnosis of Diarrhea
With acute diarrhea, it is usually easy to handle as the symptoms usually clear by themselves within a window period of 48 hours. It will not require the administration of any antibiotics and will be treated with a diet modification.
In the event that it is severe, then it will require laboratory evaluations. Blood tests for that matter may be carried out to check the levels of nutrients, body fluids and salts and to use the results as a replacement guide for the same.
For chronic diarrhea, further and more detailed tests may be undertaken. A blood count test will check for signs of anemia and other bodily infections. An electrolyte test will for check for any abnormalities in electrolyte levels of the body. A kidney function test will determine renal efficiency and the general condition of the kidneys. An albumin test will check the overall nutritional status of your body.
Other clinical tests that can be carried out include endoscopic tests on the colon region, double ballon enteroscopy for the small intestine and radiography i.e. an ultra sound and CT scan on the whole digestion system.
Diarrhea can affect anyone, young or old. It is caused by many factors, mostly general infections. Diarrhea exists in two forms: acute diarrhea and chronic diarrhea. There also exists two types of diarrhea: rotavirus diarrhea that affects babies and children and traveler’s diarrhea that affects people who travel from one place to another.
The main sign of diarrhea is dehydration, which is treated or managed through the intake of fluids, especially lots of water. During a diarrhea episode, one should strive to follow a proper diet and avoid certain foods.
Proper hygiene and sanitation should be maintained at all times as this is one of the main ways of how to stop diarrhea. Acute diarrhea can be treated without antibiotics and with diet modification. Severe and chronic forms of diarrhea require detailed laboratory tests and extensive medication.