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Diarrhea

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Popularized by funny commercials that portray embarrassing situations, diarrhea involves having loose and watery bowels. Even though it is not considered as a serious illness, diarrhea, which can last for two to three days, can hamper a person’s daily routine. People usually get or are inflicted with diarrhea two or three times a year and this condition is treatable with over the counter medication.

DIARRHEA SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

When you have osmotic diarrhea, something in the intestines draws water from the body into the bowels, making them watery and loose. The most common example of this type of diarrhea is “Chewing Gum Diarrhea” which occurs when sugar substitutes like sorbitol is not absorbed by the body, causing it to draw water from the body, leading to diarrhea.

Secretory diarrhea which is usually caused by infections, happens when the body released water into the bowel. This illness can also be brought about by drug abuse.

Another type of diarrhea is the exudative type of diarrhea. This happens when blood or pus is present in the stool. This is caused by irritants in the bowel like ulcerative colitis and some types of infections.

DIARRHEA CAUSES

Having a virus infect your stomach is the most common cause of diarrhea. This infection is called an “intestinal flu” and usually lasts for two days. Bacterial infection from eating or drinking something that is contaminated or unclean can also lead to diarrhea. Some people tend to go through diarrhea because it is their allergic reaction towards a certain food or their stomach do not have the enough enzymes to digest that type of food. This is usually the case for people who are lactose intolerant. Other causes of diarrhea are diabetes, digestrive tract surgery, laxative abuse, alcohol abuse, malabsorptions, intesntinal diseases, radiation therapy and hyperthyroidism. Diarrhea symptoms can be broken down into uncomplicated (or non-serious) diarrhea and complicated diarrhea. Complicated diarrhea, which is a much serious form of the disease, tends to cause weight loss and fever. One of the signs of having this illness is having bloody mucus or undigested food in the stool. Uncomplicated diarrhea, on the other hand, is less serious and more common. Symptoms of this illness include watery, thin or loose stools, nausea and vomiting, abdominal bloating or cramps and the feeling that you always need to go.

DIARRHEA PREVENTION

Preventing dehydration is the most important thing that you should do. You should keep your fluids replenished in order to avoid this. In order to make sure that you don’t lose as a lot of electrolytes, you can also take in some potassium salts. You can also drink some oral rehydration solutions like Pedialyte, Rehydrate, Resol and Rice-Lyte. Plain water is not enough because it cannot replace the electrolytes that you've lost. It may even decrease the concentration of electrolytes in your body which may cause seizures later on.

Children ages two years and below should be given around 1 to 3 ounces of rehydration solution every time he or she releases a loose stool. Children who are older should be given 3 to 8 ounces in order to prevent dehydration. Adults, on the other hand, should drink this solution as much as possible.

If you can't find some rehydration solution, you can make your own mixture by combining 2 tablespoons of sugar or honey, 1/4 teaspoon of table salt, 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 liter clean water. If you don't have any baking soda at home, you can just double the amount of table salt in the mixture.

At first, it can be difficult to eat because of your illness. During the first twenty-four hours, you can stay off food in order to allow your stomach to settle down. After this period, you should start forcing yourself to eat you semi-solid, low-fiber foods like bananas, rice, applesauce without sugar, toast, potatos or pasta. This is also called the BRAT diet. This will help normalize your bowel movements. You should also avoid consuming dairy products, fatty foods and high-fiber carbohydrates because these can exacerbate the symptoms of diarrhea.

Unfortunately, although diarrhea is not a serious illness, it can be a symptom of one. There are some symptoms that may need medical attention. One of them is having a fever that is higher than 101 degrees Farenheit. This makes monitoring the patient's temperature very important. Other symptoms that require medical care are spots of blood in the vomit or stool, swelling or pain in the right lower part of the abdomen and dehydration which can be monitored by knowing the frequency of the patient’s urination. And, in case you notice that you cannot seem to hold any fluids in your tummy, you should head to the hospital as soon as possible.

Also, if the patient doesn't show any of these symptoms but look weak and dizzy or appear sleepy and unaware, you should take him or her to a doctor. He or she may already be suffering from dehydration.

DIARRHEA TREATMENT

In cases wherein you need to see a physician, make sure that you have the following information at hand: the day when the illness began, what you ate and if you were in contact with a person who had the same symptom. This will help him pinpoint the cause of your illness.

In order to relieve yourself from the symptoms and be able to get some well-needed rest, you can take some acetaminophen or Tylenol if you don’t have any liver problems. If you don’t know what is causing your gastroenteritis, do not take any antibiotics. These can worsen the infection or make them last longer. If you’ve gone through some laboratory tests and it has been found out that one of these bacteria: Campylobacter, Shigella, and Vibrio cholerae is causing the disease then you would be asked to drink some antibiotics by your physician.

In order to stop you from vomiting, you may also drink some antiemetics like promathazine, prochorperazine or ondanestron. These medications are not recommended for children though. Also, since your gastroenteritis may be caused by a toxin that your body is trying to eliminate, doctors do not usually recommend taking in some antidiarrheal medications because you need to clear your body of this toxin by releasing it through your stools and vomit. But, if the doctor allows you to take in some, he will recommend over-the-counter medications such as diphenoxylate atropine or loperamide.
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