Everyone has diarrhea occasionally—loose, watery and more-frequent bowel movements. In most cases, it lasts a day or two. But when diarrhea lasts for weeks, it can indicate a serious disorder, such as a persistent infection or inflammatory bowel disease, or a less serious condition such as irritable bowel syndrome. Please note that children are at greater risk for dehydration and other complications of diarrhea. This information is for adults only, please follow your child’s pediatrician’s advice.
A number of conditions can cause diarrhea, including viruses, bacteria and parasites from contaminated food or water, some medications, lactose intolerance, fructose or artificial sweeteners. It can also be a symptom of other digestive disorders, such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, microscopic colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.
If you're an adult, you should see your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Diarrhea that persists beyond two days
- Severe abdominal or rectal pain
- Bloody or black stools
- Fever above 102 F (39 C)
- Antibiotics for diarrhea caused by bacteria or parasites
- Replace fluids and salts, orally or intravenously
- Adjust medications
- Treat underlying conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease