Diarrhea

DIARRHEA

Diarrhea is one of the most common health complaints. It can range from a mild, temporary condition to a potentially life threatening one.

Diarrhea is characterized by abnormally loose or watery stools. Most causes of diarrhea are due to bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Digestive system disorders can also cause chronic diarrhea.

If a person frequently passes stools but they are of a normal consistency, this is not diarrhea. Similarly, breastfed babies often pass loose, sticky stools. This is normal.

CAUSES OF DIARRHEA

Many cases of diarrhea are due to an infection in the gastrointestinal tract.

?bacteria

?viruses

?parasitic organisms

Some cases of chronic diarrhea are called “functional” because although all the digestive organs appear normal, they are not functioning as they ideally should. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common cause of functional diarrhea.

SYMPTOMS OF DIARRHEA

Diarrhea refers to watery stools, but it may be accompanied by other symptoms. These include:

?stomach pain

?abdominal cramps

?bloating

?weight loss

?fever

?body aches

?chills

Diarrhea is also a symptom of other conditions, some of which can be serious. Other possible

symptoms are:

?blood or pus in the stool

?persistent vomiting
dehydration

If any of these accompany diarrhea, or if the diarrhea is chronic, it may indicate a more serious illness.

TREATMENT OF DIARRHEA

?Rehydration

Children and older people are particularly vulnerable to dehydration. For all cases of diarrhea, rehydration is vital.

People can replace fluids by simply drinking more of them. In severe cases, however, a person may need intravenous fluids.

Oral rehydration solution or salts (ORS) refers to water that contains salt and glucose. The small intestine absorbs the solution to replace the water and electrolytes lost in the stool.

?Antidiarrheal medication

?Antibiotics

?Diet

?Probiotics

There is mixed evidence for the role of probiotics in diarrhea. They may help prevent traveler’s diarrhea, and in there is evidence to suggest that they might reduce diarrheal illness.

? Others include:

?sipping on clear liquids, such as electrolyte drinks, water, or fruit juice without added sugar

?after each loose stool, replacing lost fluids with at least 1 cup of liquid

?doing most of the drinking between, not during, meals

?consuming high potassium foods and liquids, such as diluted fruit juices, potatoes without the skin, and bananas

THINGS THAT MIGHT MAKE DIARRHEA WORSE

?sugar-free gum, mints, sweet cherries, and prunes

?caffeinated drinks and medications

?fructose in high amounts, from fruit juices, grapes, honey, dates, nuts, soft drinks, and prunes

?anything that contains artificial sweeteners

HOW TO PREVENT DIARRHEA

?drinking clean and safe water only
?having good sanitation systems, such as wastewater and sewage
?having good hygiene practices, such as regularly washing the hands with soap, especially before preparing food and eating and after using the bathroom
?educating oneself on the spread of infection.

 

Written by: Josephine Wuraola

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