Severe Diarrhea

Severe Diarrhea: Causes, Signs, and Treatment Options

Diarrhea is a frequent digestive problem that affects almost everyone at some point in their life. Severe diarrhea, or diarrhea that lasts for more than 2 to 3 days, is usually a sign of a more serious illness, and should always be evaluated by a medical doctor. Here we look at the causes, signs, and treatment options for severe diarrhea.

Causes of Severe Diarrhea

There are several underlying causes of severe diarrhea, including:

  • Bacterial Gastroenteritis: Also called “food poisoning”, this occurs when harmful bacteria is consumed in food or water.
  • Viral Gastroenteritis: Also called “stomach flu”, this occurs when a virus is ingested.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): IBD is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells in the digestive system.
  • Allergic Reaction: An allergic reaction to a food or medication can cause severe diarrhea.
  • Parasitic Infection: An infection by a parasitic organism, such as a worm, can cause severe diarrhea.
  • Medication Side-Effect: Certain medications, such as antibiotics, can cause severe diarrhea.

Signs of Severe Diarrhea

According to the Mayo Clinic, a person is considered to be suffering from severe diarrhea if they have:

  • Passing more than 8 liquid stools in a single day
  • Dehydration (dry mouth, tiredness or difficulty concentrating)
  • Fever
  • Blood or mucus in the stool
  • Abdominal cramps or pain
  • Nausea or vomiting

Treatment Options for Severe Diarrhea

If you are suffering from severe diarrhea, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Treatment for severe diarrhea includes:

  • Replacement of lost fluids through an intravenous (IV) drip or oral fluids.
  • Medication to stop the diarrhea, such as loperamide.
  • Antibiotics, if the cause of the diarrhea is bacterial.
  • Antiviral medication, if the cause of the diarrhea is viral.
  • Changes to diet and lifestyle.

Severe diarrhea can be a serious medical condition that should be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible. To prevent severe diarrhea, it is important to practice food safety, avoid undercooked or contaminated food and water, and wash your hands regularly.