Diarrhoea means you have loose and/or watery stools. This is usually the result of an infection caused by a virus or bacteria. This infection has resulted in your intestinal wall becoming infected and therefore absorbing less fluid. This causes the loose and/or watery stools. It can also cause other unpleasant complaints.
The symptoms you can have along with diarrhoea are:
- Abdominal cramps.
- Feeling tired and weak.
- A fever.
- A headache.
- Vomiting and nausea.
When you’re suffering from diarrhoea, it’s important that you:
- Avoid becoming dehydrated. This is especially important for people over 70 years old and young children. You need to drink about 2 to 3 litres of water a day in order to keep enough fluid in your body. Drink small amounts when vomiting, but do make sure you continue drinking. Your body will still absorb the liquid.
- Continue to eat small amounts if you have abdominal cramps. This can sometimes result in you needing to go to the toilet more often. Your intestines will still be sensitive, but it doesn’t mean you’ve eaten the wrong thing.
- Don’t drink sweet drinks if you’ve had diarrhoea for more than 7 days. We also advise against this if the diarrhoea makes another comeback. The intestines can’t tolerate sweet drinks particularly well. Examples of sweet drinks are juice and milk.
- Make sure you get plenty of rest.
- Regularly wash your hands with soap and water.
- Thoroughly wash your plates, cutlery and cups after using them.
- Take some anti-diarrhoeal medication if you start to feel dehydrated. You can buy these from the chemist or pharmacy. One example is Norit’s anti-diarrhoeal medication, but make sure you always gain advice about the right product to take. Would you like more information about what to do if you are dehydrated? Then take a look at dehydration.
You should see your GP if:
- You start to feel weak, drowsy or confused.
- You feel like you’re going to faint.
- You have watery diarrhoea and this lasts for more than 3 days.
- You are over 70 years old. We recommend you contact your GP after 1 day of diarrhoea. And definitely if you have a fever too. Your body temperature would then be 38°C or higher.
- You are over 70 years old and have not been able to urinate for more than 8 hours.
- You’re taking water tablets or medicines for high blood pressure.
- You keep vomiting.
- If you don’t drink or don’t drink enough.